August 21, 2020 14:00
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has delegated some powers to his younger sister Yo-jong as well as other largely obscure officials, according to the National Intelligence Service. The NIS said the leader still wields "absolute power" but is letting them handle inter-Korean and U.S. business as well as economic and military affairs.
What is going on? The NIS said the main reason for the power-sharing arrangement is that Kim Jong-un has been under a tremendous amount of stress while single-handedly leading the reclusive state over the past nine years. But the spy agency also said he may be seeking to pass the blame around if his policies fail. North Korea is barely sputtering along right now as its moribund economy was ravaged by sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and recent flooding. The embarrassing failure of Kim Jong-un's summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi last year continues to rankle. There seems to have been a need to ensure that he does not end up bearing the brunt of any public discontent.
There has never been any power-sharing in North Korea before. Chinese-style leadership by committee is unthinkable. Nation founder Kim Il-sung consolidated the one-man leadership, and his son Kim Jong-il purged his half-brother and quickly eliminated any subordinates who were rumored to be his second-in-command. It is therefore quite unusual to see Kim Jong-un delegate authority to someone else, even for show.
Until recently only the supreme leader handled international and military policies, but now Kim Yo-jong has risen to the fore, spewing out invective against South Korea and the U.S as her brother remained behind the scenes for so long that there were even rumors he was at death's door. Meanwhile economic affairs have been handed to the prime minister, and military matters to two other officials about whom little is known. To top it all, Kim Jong-un as good as admitted the failure of his economic policies and promised to convene a Workers Party congress next January, which is unprecedented. Unfortunately outsiders can only speculate, but large developments seem afoot and fill them with as sense of foreboding.
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