What happens if Kim Jong Un is dead? Explaining North Korea’s succession plan

Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung started the Mount Paektu bloodline in the country in 1948. After his ascension to power, a cult of personality developed around him which was later passed on to his successors.
File photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.(AP)
File photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.(AP)
Updated on Aug 24, 2020 06:54 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Byhindustantimes.com | Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s disappearance from public life in recent months led to speculation about his health. And the fear for the worst gained credence after reports surfaced that he has handed over some power to his sister Kim Yo Jong.

Kim underwent a surgery earlier this year after which his health has been declining. And unlike other democratic countries, the Hermit Kingdom doesn’t have a succession plan in place. It is being ruled by Kim’s family since 1948; the 36-year-old became the supreme leader in 2011.

So what happens if Kim dies?

Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung started the Mount Paektu bloodline in the country in 1948. After his ascension to power, a cult of personality developed around him which was later passed on to his successors: Son Kim Jong Il and grandson Kim Jong Un in 2011.

In a democratic country (example India), there are set protocols and designations which have been empowered by the Constitution of the country to run the affairs in case an elected leader is left incapacitated or can’t perform his/her duties due to some other reason. But in North Korea, the leader has to be from Kim’s bloodline.

What about his sons?

Reports in variuous outlet say that Kim has three sons - and the eldest one was born in 2010. Hence, the reponsibilities to run the affairs of the country rests on the shoulders of his sister Kim Yo Jong. She is the only person that the North Korean leader trusts.

Kim has made his sister the “de facto second-in-command”, according to neighbouring South Korea’s intelligence agency. The sleuths of the agency said that Kim has delegated responsibility for relations with Seoul and Washington to his sister.

Kim Yo Jong won fame ahead of her brother’s 2019 summit with US President Donald Trump in Vietnam, when her efforts to ensure everything went well included holding an ashtray for the North Korean leader at a train station on his journey.

The Kim dynasty

Kim’s grandfather is a revered figure in the country. Many North Korean consider Kim Il Sung as the father of the country. He established the bloodline after end of the Japanese rule in North Korea in 1945.

One of the first things that travellers to North Korea notice is a huge portrait of Kim Il Sung, pictured in front of an airplane and workers alongside the road as they drive out of Pyongyang International Airport. It’s an image that soon becomes very familiar.

Millions of portraits, mosaics and paintings of Kim Il Sung, founder of North Korea, and his son Kim Jong Il, the father of current leader Kim Jong Un, offer daily reminders to the public of the central role of the Kim dynasty in their nation’s story.

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