If 37-year-old Kim Jong Un were to die, 40-year-old Jong Chul, who has never been an active candidate for power, would be a prime candidate to take over.
“In a succession scenario, his name would surely be on the table,” Greg Scarlatoui, executive director of the North Korea Human Rights Committee, told The Daily Beast. The Workers Party’s multistacular Organization and Guidance Department (OGD) – of which Kim Jong Un is the chairman – would decide on a successor, leaving the coterie of generals and senior party officials now surrounding Kim Jong Un to decide on a successor. care to decide policy.
There would be, said Scarlatoui, “advantages of being a direct descendant of the Paektu lineage” – a reference to the highest peak on the Korean peninsula where Kim Jong Il, by the North Korean mystic, was born in 1941 in a cabin. log – “and inconvenience, his apparent” weakness “compared to his brother. Having said that, he observed, “There has always been a symbiosis between the Workers’ Party and the Kim family regime.
“Jong Chul holds an honorary position in the Organization and Guidance department, but no report has ever shown that he contributed to any political action or decision,” Robert Collins, author of a book on OGD after spending more than 30 years analyzing North Korea for the US command in Seoul, The Daily Beast said. “Kim Jong-un obviously tolerates his existence as long as he stays away.
It was only after Kim Jong Il deemed his eldest son Jong Chul “too effeminate,” according to Kim’s Japanese sushi chef Kenji Fujimoto, that he appointed his younger brother Jong Un as his successor for about a year. before dying in 2011. Since then, it seems Jong Chul has kept his head down, playing guitar with friends in a top-secret environment in Pyongyang while Kim Jong Un makes it clear that he is the boss and the heads will fall if someone gets out of line.
Nonetheless, Kim Jong Chul’s rise “is a very achievable scenario,” Choi Jin-wook, chairman of the Seoul Center for Strategic and Cultural Studies, told the Daily Beast. “The Kim family are divine figures. In North Korea, the most important qualification is to be a member of the family.
This qualification is so vital that in February 2017, Kim Jong Un ordered the assassination of his 44-year-old older brother – and potential rival – Kim Jong Nam. Living in exile in Macau, a former Portuguese colony on the Chinese coast, Jong Nam had sparked paranoid fears from Jong Un by criticizing Kim’s dynastic regime. After checking in for a flight from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, two young women smeared her face with what North Korean agents had told the women, one from Vietnam, the other from Indonesia , was water, but was actually a chemical VX nerve agent concocted in Pyongyang.
Kim Jong Chul, who was not seen publicly in Pyongyang during Kim Jong Un’s reign, was last seen in May 2015 during an Eric Clapton concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. A true Clapton groupie, he had also attended his concerts in Germany in 2006 and in Singapore in 2011. Thae Yong Ho, then Deputy Ambassador of North Korea to the United Kingdom, who defected to South Korea in 2016, has said he personally organized the tour, including two evenings of Clapton shows and a luxury hotel costing over $ 3,000 a night.
Ko Yong Hui, third wife or wife of Kim Jong Il and mother of Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Chul, and younger sister Kim Yo Jong, died of breast cancer in Paris in 2004. The degree to which Jong Un suppresses Jong Chul, keeping him hidden, watched and guarded, is unclear, but Thae said he lives quietly in Pyongyang.
“Kim Jong Chol remains out of the political spotlight and in the shadows in Pyongyang,” Evans Revere, a former US diplomat in Seoul, told The Daily Beast. “He would be free to play his guitars and play with friends. “
In North Korea, it’s the lineage that counts. “Without having any power, yes, Kim Jong Chul could win the titles. If Jong Chul doesn’t create problems, no one hates him, ”Kim Tae-woo, former president of the Korea National Unification Institute, said in an interview with the Daily Beast.
But what about Kim Yo Jong, the 34-year-old younger sister? Often outspoken, she ranks second behind Kim Jong Un in terms of real power. Yo Jong “played the part of the second man,” Kim Tae-woo said, but she is “already known in South Korea for her insulting comments” against South Korean President Moon Jae-in for approving military exercises on computers with US forces while watching for dialogue with the North.
Keen to maintain full respect for Kim Jong Un, Yo Jong, in charge of the Workers’ Party’s publicity and information department, was elevated in September to the real center of power, the State Affairs Committee. In a totally male dominated system, however, Kim Tae-woo thinks her gender counts against her. Other members of North Korea’s inner circle, he said, would not want a woman in the country’s top positions.
“Yo Jong is the danger that is waiting to happen,” Collins said. “Does North Korean society tolerate a female leader?” Not likely. It would divide the NK elite faster than billion dollar bribes. “
Revere, however, is not so sure. Never has there been “a hint of excessive ambition on his part,” he said. “She’s flawless towards Kim Jong Un in their appearances together. She also frequently speaks alone on key political issues, suggesting a high level of self-confidence and her confidence that she can speak for her brother and the regime.
In contrast, Kim Jong Chul isn’t known for his desire to rule anything – a record that could make him a carefully harmless choice in the inevitable infighting after Jong Un leaves the scene. In an environment where hundreds of officials have been wiped out by order of Jong Un and, before him, Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung, survival depends on caution.
Kim Jong Un, in addition to exterminating his older half-brother, ordered the public arrest in December 2018 live on State TV of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, married to his aunt, Kim’s younger sister. Jong Il.
Glasses askew after a beating, Jang was shown being dragged by guards into a small courtroom before being summarily executed. Once North Korea’s second-highest ruler under Kim Jong Il, he was accused of corruption and many other crimes after making the fatal mistake of wanting to hold true authority rather than just advising as a humble servant.
Kim Jong Un, who holds every prominent title from president to party president, from chairman of the state affairs committee to commander of the armed forces, has ruthlessly consolidated his power even as his health remains a subject. of concern and speculation. Judging from the photographs, he lost around 20 kilograms, up from 140 kilograms, but it’s still way too heavy for someone who is only 5 feet 8 inches tall.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, aggressively supporting President Moon’s proposal to dialogue and reconcile with North Korea, issued statements claiming doubts about his health were “unfounded.” The NIS also dismissed speculation that a body duplicate replaced him on occasion and denounced it as “not true at all,” addressing a story emblazoned on the front page of the U.S. supermarket tabloid last month. Globe that Kim Yo Jong had succeeded his brother in a coup.
However, the credibility of the NIS, led by Park Jie-won, accused 20 years ago for his role in paying North Korea to provoke the North-South summit in June 2000 between the late South Korean President Kim Dae -jung and Kim Jong Il, is open to the question. “Moon’s number one goal with North Korea since he began his presidency,” Bruce Bennett, longtime Korean analyst at the Rand Corporation, told The Daily Beast, “has been to establish a condition. of peaceful coexistence ”.
Kim Jong Un’s “huge weight loss”, Bennett added, “raises serious questions as to whether the images we are seeing are of one or more of Kim’s doubles.” In fact, “We don’t even know enough to dismiss what, under other circumstances, might be seen as ridiculous suggestions. Failing to be open and with their history of using doubles, there will almost certainly be periodic speculation about the North Korean leadership’s problems. “
Yet another question is whether Kim Jong Chul, if he were to become a figurehead, could earn the proper respect for any titles, however empty they might be, that could befall him.
“Kim Jong Chul wouldn’t make a very effective leader – he certainly wouldn’t run the Politburo and similar meetings like Kim Jong Un does,” Bennett said. “Of course, the North could use a duplicate of him to maintain his appearance while Kim Yo Jong reigned. “
Kenji Fujimoto, who has satiated the Kim family’s culinary tastes for years, explained in a memoir why Kim Jong Il has eliminated Kim Jong Chul from the succession. The child, Fujimoto citing Jong Il, was “like a girl.”