In the last few days, a report has been released by some news agencies which appear to claim that Kim Jong Il’s third son, Jong Woon, has been designated as the successor to the ailing dictator. However, according to a source inside the Ministry of Unification (MoU), “The succession issue generates diverse rumours, but nothing is confirmed. We have not heard of an instruction appointing Jong Woon as successor to Kim Jong Il being transmitted to the Guidance Department of the Party.”
Yonhap, a South Korean news agency, reported on Thursday that Kim Jong Il has decided to appoint Jong Woon as his successor and had handed instructions to that effect to the Guidance Department of the Central Committee of the Party earlier this month.
According to the report, the First Vice Director of the Guidance Department Lee Jeh Gang summoned a cadres meeting and delivered Kim Jong Il’s instruction. After which, it was handed over to provincial organizations of the Party.
Jong Woon, who was born in 1984, is a veiled figure different from his two elder brothers, Jong Nam and Jong Cheol. His career thus far is merely to have graduated from the International School in Berne, Switzerland and then to have studied in Kim Il Sung National War College in Pyongyang from 2002 to 2007.
He is as a person in the elite group who has never a taken public position on any issue. Possibly explained by his relative youth, that is nevertheless different from Kim Jong Il’s succession procedure, in that Jong Il was officially approved as the successor to his father by becoming a committee member of the Central Committee of the Party in the eighth round of the fifth term of the General Assembly of the Party in February, 1974.
Jong Woon is known to have an appearance and characteristics just like his father’s: strong leadership and self-confidence. Kenji Fujimoto, Kim Jong Il’s former chef, reported in his book “Kim Jong Il’s Chef” that, “He resembles his father exactly, even the body shape is the same.”
In any case, however, there have not been any noticeable signs that Jong Won is taking any instruction to prepare for succession. The word on the streets of North Korea is that Jong Woon has serious hypertension and diabetes. Therefore, some say, skeptically, “Do you really think Kim Jong Il would appoint a sickly successor?” The elder Kim is surely aware of what happened in the Soviet Union, when both Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko passed away very early in their tenures, sapping confidence in the governing dictatorship.
Other opinions abound. “NK In&Out,” a publication from the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, recently issued, suggested that Jang Sung Taek has been conducting operations related to the succession since November of last year, and additionally reported that Kim Jong Nam has started to be called the “Morning Star General,” a title which tends to suggest newly-elevated importance.
The Yomiuri Shimbun released it’s own claim on the 15th, that, “Preparing for Kim Jong Il’s incapacitation, North Korean authorities have named Kim Jong Nam as the nominal head of state, and are setting up a collective leadership system with the Party, the military and the Kim family.”
However, Kim Jong Il’s second son, Jong Cheol, who was known at one stage to be suffering from narcotics addition, in addition to abnormal testosterone levels and other undesirable health conditions, is allegedly being supported in the succession battle by the First Vice Directors of the Guidance Department Lee Jeh Gang and Lee Yong Cheol.
Some experts on North Korea even predict that there are no preparations for the succession because Kim Jong Il seems to be directly making policy while increasing numbers of onsite inspections.