The Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference and Supreme People’s Assembly are just around the corner, with the main purpose of both being the finalization of the 3rd generation succession of Kim Jong Eun. International watchers will be analyzing the key outcomes of the two events closely in order to get a slightly better understanding of both the Kim Jong Eun regime’s blueprint for the nation going forward, and who will be leading it.
The election of heads of Central Party organs will be dealt with by the first event, tomorrow’s Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference. The event is also charged with amending Party regulations. The second, Friday’s Supreme People’s Assembly, is supposed to elect the National Defense Commission chair, currently the highest position of state, in addition to choosing its own Standing Committee chair and the prime minister. It also makes laws and signs off on state budgets.
At the first, Kim Jong Eun is almost certain to be made Party General-Secretary and probably also chair of the Central Military Committee, both of which are positions his father used to hold before his death on December 17th last year. According to a South Korean government official, “The situation where every region, enterprise and so on in North Korea has accepted Kim Jong Eun as a delegate is the same as that when Kim Jong Il was made Party General-Secretary.”
The main area of uncertainty internationally is whether Kim Jong Eun will indeed become National Defense Commission chair or not at the second. The title of state ‘Premier’ was left vacant following Kim Il Sung’s death, and it may be that the National Defense Commission chairmanship, or even the entity itself, will be mothballed in the same tradition.
There is also a high chance that Kim Jong Eun will end the week as a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. It is among North Korea’s smaller and more dynamic entities; it was employed in late December to make Kim Jong Eun supreme commander, for example. Therefore, if North Korea is proposing to fill the seat rendered empty by Kim Jong Il’s passing, Kim Jong Eun will likely receive it.
However, there is a second empty seat, that of Cho Myung Rok, who died in November, 2010, shortly after the 3rd Party Delegates’ Conference. Analysts point to Kim Jeong Gak, the current 1st Vice-Director of the General Political Bureau of the Chosun People’s Army, as next in line here. He was present next to the hearse that carried the body of Kim Jong Il around Pyongyang in December, pointing to his upward mobility in the regime.
On this, Cheong Seong Chang of the Sejong Institute commented to Daily NK, “Because Kim Jeong Gak oversees the activities of the General Political Bureau; it does look probable that he will take Cho Myung Rok’s place.”
Jang Sung Taek’s position is going to be worth watching out for. Promotion from his current role as a candidate member of the Politburo is highly plausible; however, because North Korea is a highly centralized one-man dictatorship system and with rumors spreading about troubles between he and his wife (and Kim Jong Eun’s aunt) Kim Kyung Hee, Jang’s elevation is by no means a certainty.
There are also Kim Jong Eun’s blood relations to consider; his sister, Kim Yeo Jung, who was recently made a delegate on the say-so of the Party Delegates’ Conference Preparatory Committee, and elder brother Kim Jong Cheol, whose elevation, if it has occurred at all, has been undertaken in silence. However, neither currently holds a known official position in the regime core, and so it may be that neither makes much official progress this week, either.
Also, since the 3rd Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference was held mere moments ago in the second half of 2010, and it was then that the fundamentals of the Kim Jong Eun system were set in stone, this time there are likely to be fewer wide-reaching changes beyond those already mentioned.
The country has already shown that for the time being it proposes to follow the Kim Jong Il political line, primarily through the military-first system and liberal use of the phrase “great leader comrade Kim Jong Il’s last instructions.” As such, it seems highly unlikely that any new policy directions will be announced.
“North Korea will focus first of all on the stability of the Kim Jong Eun system,” Kim of the North Korea Strategy Center said of the coming days. “But since there is nothing to clearly symbolize the strong state, the Supreme People’s Assembly and Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference will just be a party for those guys on top.”