Earlier this week, when we first heard the reports about Kim Jong Un possibly being dead, or close to it, followed by Yonhap's denial - which simply stated that one official who spoke with a reporter at the news org said SK Intel had nothing on it. We suspected that observers seemed to willing to accept that report as actual evidence to the contrary. We suspected there might be something more to it.
Even when Trump said KJU was probably fine, something still seemed to be amiss. If he was truly in good health, why hadn't he made an appearance at any other scheduled public events to ward of panic? The North Koreans didn't even have a convincing body double to fool the crowds into believing their dear leader was well?
Now, a few days later, the Japanese press appears to be getting closer to the truth: As we noted earlier today, it's widely believed that Kim is in a "vegetative state", and likely won't survive.
Kim Yo Jong
Which - since Kim's children are far too young to run the country - brings our attention to the line of succession. As we noted earlier this week, there are several potential successors to the throne. Since the founding of the modern state in the aftermath of the Korean War, the country has been ruled by the "Mt Paektu Bloodline", which comprises most of the mythos and cult of personality around the Kim family.
But one thing we didn't really cover in great depth was the concerns that some in western intelligence have about Kim's sister, who has been seen more frequently in international news reports in recent years. The younger Kim, believed to be 31, is one of her brother's closest confidants and his de facto chief of staff. She has joined him at several high-profile international summits.
Unfortunately, to put it simply and straightforwardly, many fear that Kim Yo Jong would be even more diabolical and hostile than her brother. As one twitter wit joked, he is ready and willing to dunk on any 'feminist takes' claiming that the younger Kim would be a more judicious and receptive ruler.
If Kim Jong Un ends up dying and his evil sister takes over, I vow to you all right here and now that I will dunk on any & all hot takes that even hint that a woman taking over the family business of running a starving nuclear prison state is some sort of victory for feminism.— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) April 25, 2020
The Telegraph reports that she was recently elevated to NK's Politburo.
One reason for the anxieties about her hardline politics: Earlier this year, she issued a scathing political statement about South Korea in her own name, raising concerns that she was pushing back against her brothers purported efforts to deescalate the tensions on the peninsula, even as 'expert' after 'expert' has insisted that NK will never surrender its nukes.
If she takes the throne, would Kim's younger sister instead send them flying across the Pacific? News this weekend that a mobile missile launcher has been deployed amidst the crisis of leadership certainly doesn't make us feel less alarmed.
To be sure, Kim's sister isn't the only possible successor; there are doubts that the Party would allow her to lead, given the fact that she is a woman.
As the speculation mounts, here's a quick run-through of the options, courtesy of Bloomberg:
Kim Yo Jong; Sister
Part royal representative, part personal assistant, Kim Yo Jong has emerged as one of her older brother’s closest aides. Earlier this month, she was reinstated as an alternate Politburo member of the ruling Workers Party of Korea. As such, she’s the only other member of the Kim family with anything approaching real power in the regime.
Although she became the first member of the ruling family to visit Seoul and accompanied Kim Jong Un in his summits with U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping, she’s also performed mundane tasks, such as helping the leader extinguish a cigarette during a train stop in China. Whether North Korea’s patriarchal elite will support a relatively young woman as the country’s next “supreme leader” is unclear.
Kim Jong Un’s Son
A male heir would provide the most conventional line of succession in a dynasty previously ruled by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, and founded by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. South Korean intelligence said Kim married Ri Sol Ju, a former singer, in 2009 and is thought to have three children.
Problem is, the children have yet to be officially mentioned in state media and the oldest is believed to be a son born in 2010, according to South Korea’s DongA Ilbo newspaper. Dennis Rodman, the offbeat former basketball star who visited North Korea, said in 2013 that he also held a baby daughter named Ju Ae. That would likely require any of the children to rule under some form of regent until they come of age.
Kim Han Sol; Nephew
Kim Han Sol, born in 1995, may have become heir-apparent himself if his father, Kim Jong Nam, hadn’t fallen out with Kim Jong Il and gone into exile in the Chinese gambling hub of Macau. Kim Jong Nam was Kim Jong Un’s older half-brother and his most serious rival, frequenting casinos and occasionally criticizing his younger sibling’s regime.
Any hopes that Kim Han Sol might have had of returning to Pyongyang were dashed in 2017, when his father was murdered at the Kuala Lumpur airport by two women who smeared VX nerve agent on his face. Chinese police later arrested several North Koreans dispatched to Beijing on suspicion of plotting to kill Kim Han Sol, South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported at the time. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Kim Jong Chol; Brother
Kim Jong Chol, Kim Jong Un’s only surviving brother, would be another longshot, since he has shown more interest in guitars than politics.
Thae Yong Ho, the former No. 2 at North Korea’s embassy in London who defected to South Korea, once said Kim’s elder brother “doesn’t own any official title” adding he’s "just a really talented guitarist."
Kim Jong Il saw his middle son as “girlish,” according to the person who goes by the pen name of Kenji Fujimoto and claims to have been the personal sushi chef for the former North Korean leader. In 2011, South Korean broadcaster KBS captured Kim Jong Chol enjoying an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore. Little else is known about him except that he studied in Switzerland and is a fan of U.S. professional basketball like his brother.
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