Friday, April 8, 2011

After anti-climactic meet-up in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un is still The Kim Who Wasn't There

These protesters are opposed to Kim Jong-un sporting a tilaka.
Such a third eye would give him incredible insight and power.

It was supposed to be the big one, following the other big one.

While the grand meeting of the DPRK's Korean Workers' Party last fall was supposed to see Kim Jong-un, Dear Leader Kim Jong-il's third son, anointed the next leader of North Korea, what we saw instead was KJU promoted to four-star general (even though he'd never served in the military) and made co-chairman of the powerful military commission. We finally saw his face but there was no coronation or even official acknowledgement to the North Korean people that this "also in attendance" Kim Jong-un was the son of their leader.

But just you wait until next time, we were told. Back in the fall it was too early for both his coming-out party and his consecration as the next leader. Come spring, when they meet again, his ascension will be complete. Just you wait.

Indeed, early this week we had a number of media outlets talking up how this next meeting will see Kim Jong-un officially named successor:
The North Korean leadership will meet on Thursday as reports surface that Kim Jong-Il might be handing his son a powerful government position, according to the Yonhap news agency from South Korea.
Donald Kirk at Asia Times even reported on reports of pre-succession purges:
Word from a cast of sources, official, unofficial, from defectors and others with occasional contacts into the North over Chinese cell phone systems, is that the Kim dynasty is getting rid of anyone who looks vaguely suspicious of the succession process.

Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, now accompanied almost all the time on visits to factories and military units by third son and heir presumptive Kim Jong-eun, is said to be hastening the purge in the run-up to 2012. That's when Kim, father and son, celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth, on April 15, 1912, of the founder of the dynasty, Great Leader Kim Il-sung.

Analysts here see a parallel between the current purge and that conducted by Kim Jong-il after his father's death on July 8, 1994. "They executed people when Kim Jong-il took over," said an academic contact here. "They always have to conduct a purge when there's a change in power."
But like so much of the news about The Kim Who Wasn't There, this turned out to be a whole lot of nothing:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s youngest son and heir-apparent wasn’t mentioned in a list of new Cabinet members today, signaling that the dynastic transfer of power isn’t likely to happen soon.

Kim Jong Un, thought to be in his late 20s, was given his first posts within the ruling Workers’ Party in September, paving the way to become North Korea’s next leader. His name didn’t feature, though, in government appointments approved at a parliamentary meeting, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. The Supreme People’s Assembly did agree on next year’s budget and a new security minister.
A funny thing about how they worded this. The KCNA didn't say, "Kim Jong-un's name didn't appear on the list." Rather, they simply release the list and say nothing bout Kim Jong-un or any of the other dozens of names. The way the above is worded, it sounds like the KCNA is focusing on KJU as much as South Korea, Japan, and the West are, but in fact they are not.

The BBC also carried the story:
A rare session of North Korea's parliament, seen as an opportunity to reveal more about political succession, has failed to mention leader Kim Jong-il or a son tipped to replace him.

Observers had been looking for clues that the son, Kim Jong-un, would lead a smooth transition as his father ails.

But state media made no mention of either man.

The rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly agreed to "remarkably increase" production.

Analysts of North Korea's opaque politics had thought he would be appointed to the National Defence Commission.

However, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not mention whether Kim Jong-il or his 28-year-old son attended the session, nor did it include the younger Kim in its mention of appointments.
I have been sounding the horn since last year that the Kim Jong-un ascension is much ado about nothing, and some media outlets have finally come around. But the others are still beholden to that idea, and now that Kim Jong-un didn't get promoted at all apparently, they're scrambling for an excuse or altering their story to save face:
“Not getting elected to a government post doesn’t threaten Kim Jong Un’s status as the next leader,” said Kim Yong Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “It just means that Kim Jong Il is confident of his health conditions to remain leader and that he will take the time he needs to raise a successor.”
All right then. What's probably going on is that Kim Jong-il wants his son to be his successor — family dynasty and all — but there's palpable opposition to (a) continuing what is becoming increasingly clear is a failed regime and (b) putting the country in the hands of an inexperienced dictator.

And there may be pounding at the gate soon. The populace itself is seriously disgruntled, first from losing their life savings in the Great Currency Obliteration of 2009, and now from the prospect of immense hunger.

The death of Kim Jong-il is the chance they've been waiting for, methinks, and while they'd like to secure their own comfort and safety, the purges have made it increasingly clear that that's not the way to achieve those goals. Supporting his third soon would be more of the same, or worse.

I shall repeat for those who came late, but what's going on here is that the speculative media in South Korea, the US, Europe, and Japan, seeking to fill a gaping chasm where information should be but isn't, has been talking up the succession of North Korea. In the meantime, they have utterly ignored the real story, which is that China is pushing for North Korea to follow Chinese-style reforms so that North Korea can be integrated into China's Manchurian northeast (and its ports used for Manchurian goods).

UPDATE:
Chris Green at Destination Pyongyang, while apparently co-opting my The Kim Who Wasn't There™ sobriquet for Kim Jong-un, has some insightful thoughts on why Kim Jong-un will may not be able to take his father's path to power.

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1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I was a little confused by the picture. It looks as if the demonstrator in the picture is protesting the assasination of Kim Jong Un. But I'm sure he means "NO Kim Jong Un"...I think.

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