North Korea on Tuesday heralded a “crucial” announcement as its biggest political gathering for three decades began with the clearest signal yet that Kim Jong-il has picked his youngest son as his heir.
The state news agency, KCNA, reported on Monday that Kim Jong-un had been appointed a four-star general — its first ever mention of the young man. But analysts said it was still uncertain whether the younger Kim would lead the country following his father’s death, and if so how independent he would be. They portrayed his current situation as effectively a probation period.
The TV broadcast, which was monitored in Seoul, added that Kim Jong-il had been reappointed as general secretary of the Workers Party — an “expression of [the] absolute support and trust” the people had in him.
“He will be the crown prince. That’s it. There is no doubt,” said Dr Kongdan Oh of the Brookings Institute. But she added: “The father provides a halo effect — the question is what happens when Kim Jong-il dies. That will be an interesting time.”
KCNA also reported that Kim’s sister Kyong-hui, who has accompanied him frequently on public outings in recent times, was also named as a general.
Kim Kyong-hui’s husband Jang Song-thaek is vice chairman of the National Defence Commission. He was demoted in 2004 — some think because Kim Jong-il felt he had too much influence — but made a remarkable comeback.