|▲ Gyeonggi Research Institute Senior Researcher Sohn Gwang Ju |
Although the third generation succession in North Korea appears to be gaining momentum, most experts concur that the transfer of power to Kim Jong Eun cannot be completed overnight, and say that the young man is still far shy of the level of power his father accrued even 20 years before Kim Il Sung’s death.
One such expert, Gyeonggi Research Institute Senior Researcher Sohn Gwang Ju explained at the ‘2011 North Korea Policy Symposium’ in Seoul yesterday, “Kim Jong Eun’s status and role at the moment are both far inferior to those of Kim Jong Il when he was anointed as Kim Il Sung’s successor.”
“By 1980, he had control over all aspects of the Party as a standing member of the Politburo, and through his post in the Secretariat he had the power to control every organization in North Korean society,” Sohn continued, concluding that therefore, “Kim Jong Eun can hardly be compared to Kim Jong Il at that time”.
Sohn further emphasized, “As opposed to when you look at how Kim Jong Il was given a footing from which to dominate Party proceedings from September, 1973 when he became the Party’s organization and propaganda secretary, Kim Jong Eun is in a much more uncertain position in terms of Party control.”
He further observed, “If they want to establish a system with Kim Jong Eun in complete control, he first needs to develop his own theoretical system based on the ‘Military-first’ ideology and hold organizational and law-making powers through his positions in the Politburo, the Secretariat and so on, but so far he has not reached that level.”
“Winding up the legal and institutional preparations for the dynastic succession, such as the 2009 constitutional revision, the 2010 Party charter revision and the appointment of Kim Jong Il’s relatives into the core elite, they now feel it is time to step up and establish Kim Jong Eun’s profile as successor,” Sohn went on.
However, one area where Kim Jong Eun’s seizure of control has outpaced that of Kim Jong Il is in the military, Sohn did point out, noting that Kim Jong Il took until 1980 to be elected to the Central Military Commission. Explaining the reason for this, he said, “We can see that the party-state system was at its peak during Kim Jong Il’s time as heir, but the military politic which has taken hold since the 1990s has a large part to do with this in Kim Jong Eun’s situation,.”
Meanwhile, looking at the succession going forth, Sohn said, “If Kim Jong Eun wants to have the same sort of powers that his father had in 1980, he needs to demonstrate his abilities to his father, but that’s going to take a long time. And when you consider Kim Jong Il’s health, it’s impossible to say whether Jong Eun will be able to show off his abilities at the same time as receiving sufficient and stable lessons on the succession.
Part of the process might include further provocations, another expert noted.
In a speech entitled, ‘The Functional Relationship between the North Korean Administration’s Character and Provocation Aimed at South Korea’, Researcher Oh Gyeong Seob from the Sejong Research Institute said, “Kim Jong Eun’s most important political foothold will be the military, and it will only be through reliance on military force in the same manner as his father that his regime will be stabilized. It is possible that he will use provocation of the South to build up his leadership within military circles.”
On this, Chief Researcher Lee Soo Suk from the Institute for National Security Strategy commented, “Kim Jong Il took power after close to 20 years of instruction on his succession, but Kim Jong Eun’s succession on the other hand is proceeding very hastily. If it keeps up like this there is a high chance he will overreach in relations with the South and commit some provocation.”