Just 10 days after noting that the Dear Leader had apparently placed a moratorium on discussion of his succession (see post here) there comes news that he has changed his mind, or had his mind changed for him, or possibly time passes more quickly in what is surely heaven on earth (and I wrote that with a straight face - amazing!).
According to the Times (and presumably lots of other papers) Intelligence sources in Seoul have suggested that Kim has chosen his third and favourite son, Jong Un, to take over the family business-cum-personality cult that is the DPRK.
Kim Jong Un is thought to be no more than 24 years old was educated in Switzerland and is the child of Kim’s third marriage. In the regular and heated speculation among North Korea watchers over the shape of a world without Mr Kim, Jong Un has been routinely dismissed as a likely successor because of his youth. Little about his upbringing is thought to make him suited to the task of following in the dynastic footsteps. And if he does take control he will preside over a dead economy and an agricultural crisis that annually pushes the country dangerously close to famine.
Analysts at the Korea Institute for National Unification said that the critical date to watch was the parliamentary election on March 8: if Jong Un is suddenly given a seat on the powerful National Defence Commission that will be a sign that he is begun the grooming process required before he can succeed his father. Experts in North Korean propaganda said that the selection of young successor was a logical step for the regime: the cult surrounding the “Dear Leader” has consistently presented him as vigorous and hearty. If, as many suspect, Mr Kim has suffered a stroke and is actually rather frail, the only way to present that reality to ordinary North Koreans, said one government source in Seoul, is with his young, vigorous son at his side.
Rumours of the anointment have been greeted with scepticism in some intelligence quarters, as were suggestions that the political and military hierarchies had already been asked to pass the heir apparent’s name down through their ranks to prepare people for an eventual handover - Many observers believe that South Korean intelligence “scoops” on the subject are liable to be flawed.
Questions began to arise last September when Mr Kim failed to make an appearance at a huge public parade for which participants had been rehearsing for more than a year. As suspicions mounted that the Dear Leader might be critically ill or dying, so too did worries over a possible power vacuum at the top of the notoriously unpredictable regime. If he died without selecting and grooming an heir, said US intelligence sources in December, the risks of instability were substantial.
The succession question had been complicated by the lack of an obvious heir. Kim’s eldest son, Jong Cartman, sorry, Nam, is believed to have put himself out of the running with a series of blunders including an attempt to enter Japan with a forged passport - he had allegedly been attempting to visit Tokyo Disneyland. According to a biography written by his former sushi chef, Kim considers his second son, Jong Chol, too weak to be in the running as successor.So There you have it. As I said just 10 days ago this could be baseless speculation but it is, nevertheless, interesting. It does say something about the DPRK that Kim's daughter, Kim Sul-seong, who is apparently a trusted confidante and already holds a senior post in the ruling Workers Party, is unlikely to get a look in.
There is burning question: if Kim the First was the Great Leader and Kim the Second is the Dear Leader, what will Jong Un be called? The Cute Leader? The Moderately Priced Leader? The Bless his Cotton Socks Leader? I wait with bated breath