Since Kim Jong Eun arrived in public life, North Korea has been handing out preferential promotions to the children of high cadres in the Party and military to secure the loyalty of the elite to Kim Jong Eun by creating a shared sense of destiny.
According to a well-informed source in Seoul, the children of former senior cadres continue to emerge into top leadership positions while the children of current cadres arrive at the core of Party affairs.
Many of the most recently appointed Party secretaries and departmental vice directors are the sons and son-in-laws of former or current high officials.
For example, International Secretary Kim Young Il and Tae Jong Su, the General Affairs Secretary in the Department of Administration, are sons-in-law to former State Inspection Committee Chairman Jeon Moon Seob and former Deputy Prime Minister Jeong Il Ryong respectively. Also, Oh Il Jung, who was made Vice Director of the Chosun Workers’ Party at just 50 or so years of age, is the son of former Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces Vice Director Oh Jin Woo.
Elsewhere, Choi Yong Hae, the son of former Vice Director of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces Choi Hyun, as well as being a Party secretary has also been made a military general and elevated to the Party Central Military Commission.
In the cabinet, Baek Yong Chun, who presides over Chosun Central Bank, is the son of former Foreign Minister Baek Nam Sun, and Trade Minister Lee Yong Nam is the nephew of People’s Safety Agency Vice Director Lee Myung Soo. Both have advanced to the Party Central Committee under the watchful eye of Kim Jong Eun. The brother of Kim Ok, Kim Jong Il's fourth and final partner, has also been elevated on the younger Kim's watch.
There are many more examples, the source said, going on, “The reason behind these high-speed promotions is that their parents or father-in-laws are in high positions,” before noting one more good example, “Lee Yong Ho’s father Lee Myung Jae was a close confidante of Kim Jong Il, having served as Vice Director of the Party’s Propaganda and Agitation and Guidance Departments, and in Kim’s secretarial office.”
◆ Current high speed promotions for relatives a dangerous game
However, while the close relationship between family history and promotion will serve these young leaders well, it could turn into a double-edged sword.
The source pointed out, “The special treatment these children get is not because their performance or skills are better than anyone else but because their high official parents have or had special relationships with Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. In recent years, this tendency to ‘pass down’ has expanded due to Kim Jong Eun’s succession using it as a way to ensure loyalty by tying them together as a ‘group sharing a common destiny’.”
However, he commented, “Forming these special privilege groups will increase the complaints from the people and of course from other officials, and in the end weaken the cohesiveness of the entire system.”