N.Koreans 'in the Dark' About Succession

An artwork is displayed at the Art Exhibition of Class Education at the Pyongyang International Culture Hall in Pyongyang on Wednesday. The Korean characters (left) read, An artwork is displayed at the Art Exhibition of Class Education at the Pyongyang International Culture Hall in Pyongyang on Wednesday. The Korean characters (left) read, "When we say we will do it, we will do it" (top), "The United States" (center) and "We do not make idle promises!" (bottom). /Reuters-KCNA

North Koreans are apparently unaware that Kim Jong-il has chosen his youngest son Jong-un as his successor, and few North Koreans know who Kim Jong-un is.

A North Korean official who recently returned from China told the Chosun Ilbo, "In China I found people talk a lot about Kim Jong-un as if he has been chosen as the successor, but there's been no formal announcement on this in North Korea." Neither a photo nor any even rudimentary information about Kim Jong-un's career have been disclosed, he said, adding media reports of the succession seem "incredible."

Kim's family, his children in particular, are shrouded in secrecy to the point where taking an interest in them is regarded as a crime. Only the name of Kim Jong-nam, Kim's eldest son, is well known among senior party and government officials in Pyongyang.

In a telephone conversation with a North Korean refugee, a driver for a senior party official in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province said he had never heard the name Kim Jong-un before, and few North Koreans know about him. A former soldier who recently fled North Korea said, "Neither Kim Jong-un nor the succession have ever been mentioned in lectures around military camps."

The North Korean press frequently used terms such as "bloodline to revolutionary ancestors," "successor to the revolution," or "let's succeed to the cause of juche (self-reliance) revolution." But experts point out that it is hard to link these phrases specifically to Kim Jong-un, given that they were used in the past too.

Another defector, a former very senior official, said, "It's not easy for North Korea to officially designate the heir apparent in the current circumstances."

Before Kim Jong-il was chosen to succeed his father Kim Il-sung, he expanded his personal ties with senior officials while accompanying his father on visits to various locations since the mid-1960s. A former North Korean historian who studied the history of the North Korean revolution said, "It was beyond imagination how much effort North Korea made to establish the Kim Jong-il succession." If Kim Jong-un becomes the heir apparent and power is to be handed down to a third generation of the Kim family, a new idol worship, a mixture of "bloodline" and the image of the "warrior of the leader," would have been created, he said, but so far there has been no propaganda to that effect.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 26, 2009 12:08 KST