Kim keeping power in the family

A top North Korean official confirmed to broadcaster APTN, Oct. 8, 2010, that Kim Jong Il's youngest son will succeed him as the next leader of the reclusive communist nation. In the first public confirmation of the succession plan, Yang Hyong Sop, a top official in North Korea's ruling party, referred to Kim Jong Un as "the young general."

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By Chico Harlan
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SEOUL - North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expanded his son's growing portfolio Wednesday, using the country's largest political conference in 30 years to cement his family's role in protecting his reclusive regime.

North Korea's state news agency reported that Kim Jong Il's son, Kim Jong Eun, took his first positions within the ruling Workers' Party, where he'll need to build a base of support among members who might question his age or experience. He was named vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which had previously had just eight members, including his father, and to the party's Central Committee.

The jobs, in addition to his appointment to a top military position the day before, underscore the Young General's accelerated rise: This weekend, he had never been named in the North Korean news media. Now, at 26 or 27 years old, he is North Korea's second most powerful man.

One day after Kim Jong Il's son and sister received top military positions, son Kim Jong Eun - further verifying his role as heir - took his first positions within the ruling Workers' Party, where he'll need to build a base of supporters among members who might question his age or experience.

One day after Kim Jong Il's son and sister received top military positions, son Kim Jong Eun - further verifying his role as heir - took his first positions within the ruling Workers' Party, where he'll need to build a base of supporters among members who might question his age or experience.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, in the last two days, has used a national political conference to endow his family members with high-profile jobs. One day after Kim Jong Il's son and sister received top military positions, son Kim Jong Eun - further verifying his role as heir - took his first positions within the ruling Workers' Party, where he'll need to build a base of supporters among members who might question his age or experience.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il promoted his son and his sister to top military positions in the hours before the country's largest political conference in 30 years, demonstrating anew his reliance on family bloodlines to protect his reclusive regime.

But experts say it was the tapping of Kim Jong Il's sister, Kim Kyong Hui, as a military general that offered a glimpse into the North Korean leader's strategy for protecting power as his health declines and his untested son emerges. Put simply, he plans to rely on his family.

Politics is the Kim family business, and staying in business is the family's latest challenge. Though the Kims have always used North Korea as an expansive family headquarters - "the entire bureaucracy is just a personal staff for Kim Jong Il," Seoul-based analyst Park Hyeong-Jung said - experts on Tuesday noted that Kim Kyong Hui's new job reinforces the bloodline-over-party priority. She has no military experience, but she was made a four-star general.

"When things really get tough - when the leader gets ill - it's the family that starts to circle the wagons," said Ken Gause, an Alexandria-based analyst specializing in North Korean leadership.

"We've seen this in Iraq, in the last years of the Saddam [Hussein] regime. And that's the case here. It seems to me not an accident that the day before they make party appointments, they make the bloodline appointments," Gause said. "That is a clear signal to what's happening here: The Kim family is still in control."


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