Analysts suggest that Kim Jong Il’s son succeeding his father right away is an impossible task due to a lack of governing experience.
The division of North Korean studies at the Korean Institute of National Unification noted in its report entitled “Kim Jong Il’s absence on Sept 9th event and prospects for the North Korea’s regime” that Kim Jong Il’s worsening health is an immense shock to the North Korean regime. The sudden incapacitation of an uninstitutionalized political system that concentrates power in one man caused a great deal of confusion.
“Kim Jong Il preferred direct personal supervision of the main departments, such as the military and the Cabinet, which deviates from the idea of the Party controlling both under the military-first policy. Also, in terms of policy deciding process, rather than depending on groups of advisors such as the Party executive committee or Secretariat, Kim Jong Il notified individual confidants and depended on individuals’ opinions, methods which can eventually cause a catastrophe for a political system” explained the report.
The report forecasts that it would be impossible for Kim’s son to succeed him without any governmental experience were any incapacitation to arise, when Kim has not yet even picked his successor.
Regarding Kim Jong Il’s health, the report divided the possibilities into three (simple illness; alive but difficulty functioning; and death) and suggested different types of succession accordingly.
The report presented the possibility of “Kim Jong Il choosing one person out of his most trustworthy confidants to take the successor’s role, if Kim Jong Il’s illness is not too serious.”
Next the report presented the possibility of “Kim Jong Il working behind the scenes while presenting a successor to the public. This situation will be possible if Kim Jong Il is conscious but his illness continues.”
The report further presented the possibility of a communal leadership system consisting of members of the Party and the Army, if the incapacitation of the regime happens due to Kim’s death. In such a case, the report observed that the National Defense Commission will remain as the center of power but the appointment of a successor will happen quickly.
However, there is also the possibility of clashes and conflicts forming within the communal leadership system during the transitional period. Depending on the situation, the possibility of groundless rumor, people’s unsettledness, and floods of refugees coming out of North Korea cannot be ignored.
In the report’s opinion, “Incapacitation due to Kim’s death will greatly weaken North Korea’s international and domestic affairs.”
In this event, the report suggests, “First of all, it will have a negative impact on the DPRK-US nuclear negotiations which are already in deadlock. If the regime becomes incapacitated, then North Korea will lose its power in foreign policy. Therefore talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue will be postponed until the middle of next year when the next U.S. administration’s diplomatic tack on national security is settled.”
The report continued on and said, “In the case of North Korean incapacitation, the U.S. will focus on preventing North Korea’s nuclear proliferation and China will further cooperate with the U.S. The regional situation will suddenly change; China influencing North Korea more, with the U.S. tacit consent.”