12.20.11

Report: Kim Jong-un Halts Military Exercises

Kim Jong-il's heir may not have absolute power: A source tells Reuters that he will share the reins with military leaders and his uncle, a historic shift in North Korea's history. Read updates and see photos.

Kim Jong-un to Share Power: Report

Kim Jong-un may not enjoy absolute power, after all: A source tells Reuters that he will share power with his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and military leaders. Kim will still head the ruling committee, as well as the military, but it is nevertheless the first time since 1948 that the country is not ruled by a single, authoritarian ruler. Reuters says Kim Jong-il made the arrangement before his death. Kim Jong-un’s uncle with whom he will share power, Jang Song-thaek, is married to Kim Jong-il’s sister, Kim Kyong-hu, a woman characterized by her rivals as a “mean drunk.” Kim reportedly made his first military order on Wednesday, according to a South Korean source, ruling that "all military units halt field exercises and training and return to their bases."

______________

China Endorses Kim Jong-un

China formally recognized Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s youngest son and chosen successor, as the next leader of North Korea, the Chinese foreign ministry announced Tuesday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said the Chinese government believes that North Korea will rally around the ruling Workers’ Party and the man he called “Comrade Kim Jong-un.” While Weimin said he whether Jong-un will visit China, he said Beijing would welcome him. Meanwhile, South Korea showed few signs of caring about Kim Jong-il’s death, despite the lengthy mourning to the North. For South Koreans, Kim Jong-il’s death only further proved the point that the two nations now only share a peninsula and a language.

_____________

Kim Jong-il's Corpse Dislayed

North Korea isn’t ready to put its Dear Leader in the ground: Kim Jong-il’s corpse is on public display ahead of his December 28 funeral. State TV showed it beneath a red blanket, beside bouquets of red flowers, and with two guards standing watch nearby. His body rests in the same glass mausoleum where his father’s body has been on display since 1994, though it’s unclear if it will remain on display after the official funeral. His heir, Kim Jong-un, paid respects along with military leaders.

Video screenshot

_____________

True Lies About North Korea
By Leslie H. Gelb

Here’s what the U.S. government knows or thinks it knows about the highly secretive change of North Korea’s dictators. Actually, it knows a lot and a little. U.S. officials always worry about Pyongyang, but today’s news did not spark war jitters. Here’s what it means for U.S. policy. Actually, it's not much different than under the previous dictator, but there are some interesting twists and turns—especially the relatively modest nuclear demands now being made on Pyongyang compared to the tough demands on Tehran. Of course, President Obama will wait as things sort themselves out in Pyongyang.

Here’s what the U.S. government knows or thinks it knows about the highly secretive change of North Korea’s dictators. Actually, it knows a lot and a little. U.S. officials always worry about Pyongyang, but today’s news did not spark war jitters. Here’s what it means for U.S. policy. Actually, it's not much different than under the previous dictator, but there are some interesting twists and turns—especially the relatively modest nuclear demands now being made on Pyongyang compared to the tough demands on Tehran. Of course, President Obama will wait as things sort themselves out in Pyongyang.

READ MORE >>

_____________

life-in-north-korea-bicycle
David Guttenfelder / AP Photo

_____________

Will Kim Jong-un Go Nuclear?
By Eli Lake

Before President Obama can determine whether Kim Jong-un is a man with whom he might be able to do business, U.S. intelligence analysts will need to determine whether the new young king can wield absolute power over the military and citizenry the way his father and grandfather did.

A key test of this proposition will be whether Kim, believed to be 27 or 28, will move forward with a third nuclear test that was widely expected for 2012. The regime of the recently departed Kim Jong-il promised that 2012 would be the year North Korea would become a “full nuclear weapons state,” language that most analysts interpreted to mean Kim intended to authorize the country’s third nuclear test.

READ MORE >>

_____________

Kim Jong-il Never Prepared Successor
By Nicholas Eberstadt

Kim Jong-il’s death perforce marks a turning point in modern Korean history. Not since Douglas MacArthur’s push toward the Yalu has the future of the North Korean regime been as uncertain as it is today.

To be sure: North Korea has looked to be on the precipice more than once in living memory. Indeed, North Korea has seemed to be on the verge of war with America and our allies time and again over the past half century. But we should understand those episodic crises for what they truly were: manufactured incidents by which Pyongyang’s rulers methodically extract benefits and concessions from their international adversaries. North Korea’s leaders are past masters of brinkmanship: unlike us, they are quite at home in the diplomatic stratosphere of DEFCON-3, and indeed seem to enjoy a comparative advantage in these high-tension realms. In reality, these recurrent dramas have not called into question the future of the North Korean state. By contrast, Kim Jong-il’s death does.

READ MORE >>

_____________

Lengthy Mourning for Kim Jong-il
By Naoko Aoki

The mourning for Kim Jong-il is likely to be long and widely felt. If what happened after his father’s death is any clue, grieving over the North Korean leader will continue over a long period and will be felt at all levels of North Korean society.

While the country announced that official mourning would occur through Dec. 29, it almost certainly will extend past that. The nation was planning a grand celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder and Kim Jong il’s father, on April 15, 2012. That celebration is now likely to be a somber event.

READ MORE >>

_____________

Video screenshot

_____________

U.S. Powerless on North Korea

Though North Korea’s defiant leader has fallen, the U.S. finds itself in an uneasy position: a near blackout of information from the inside of North Korea. Now that the mourning period for Kim Jong-il has begun—and will likely last weeks or months—Obama and much of the world seem to have only the option of waiting for the nation to make its next move. An administration official said it was “scary how little” the U.S. knew. While it’s certain that the successor will be Kim Jong-un, it’s unclear how he will manage the military. Meanwhile, the collapse of a landmark deal in which North Korea would halt its uranium-enrichment program for a large donation of food further complicates the relationship between the nations.

_____________

north-korea-propaganda-art-16
alain nogues

_____________

Kim Jong-un: The Shaky Successor
By Richard C. Bush

What happens next? The most likely scenario is a collective leadership that will rule in the name of the Kim family—in effect, a regency. Kim Jong-un has not had enough time to consolidate power in the key institutions of the North Korean regime: the military, the Korean Worker’s Party, the government administration, and the security and intelligence agencies. The elder Kim had around 20 years to gain control before the death of his own father, Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-un has had less than three. A key figure in the collective leadership will be Jang Song-taek, the husband of Kim Jong-il’s sister.

The regency will emphasize continuity above all, but change is not impossible. If it can preserve stability, Kim Jong-un may be able gradually to establish his own power. Yet it is also possible that the different factions in the leadership will fight among themselves over power and resources. 

READ MORE>>

_____________

North Korea Nuke Deal in Jeopardy

Talk about bad timing. Before Kim Jong-il’s sudden death, the U.S. was reportedly on the verge of a landmark deal with in which North Korea would receive a large donation of food aid in exchange for that nation halting its uranium-enrichment program. An Obama administration official who spoke to CBS News says that deal is now in danger of falling through in the midst of a likely succession struggle. The two nations have been in secret talks for months, according to the report. Now Obama must deal with a newly-tense situation on the Korean peninsula, where 28,000 U.S. troops are station south of the North Korean border.

_____________

kim-jong-il-11
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (R) waving to a military parade to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in a file photo from 10 October 1995. State-run North Korean media reported 08 October that Kim has been named as General Secretary of the WPK, ending a three-year power vacuum left by the death of Kim Il-sung, founder of North Korea and Jong-il's father. (AFP / Getty Images)

____________

Uncle Could Overshadow Kim Jong-il's Son

Kim Jong-Il’s chosen successor Kim Jong-Un may find himself overshadowed by his more experienced uncle Jang Sung Taek. Jang has been a part of the Worker’s Party for thirty years and occupied important positions in the military, secret police, and running special economic zones. Whereas, Kim Jong-Un was unknown until he was made a general in September 2010. One North Korea expert said, “Kim Jong Un has had only two years. It is not enough time to become crown prince.” The regime already appears to be setting up a system of collective leadership, giving the military greater power.

_____________

North Korea Test-Fires Missiles

South Korea put its military on alert immediately following the North’s announcement Saturday of the death of 69-year-old leader Kim Jong-il, and Pyongyang on Monday promptly test-fired two short-range missiles off its east coast. The situation on the peninsula is filled with uncertainty, but South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said an unnamed government official insisted the launch was unrelated to the death of Kim, who died Saturday of a heart attack. The North frequently conducts short-range missile tests, but South Korean officials say they are sometimes timed to coincide with periods of tension.

President Obama is reportedly urging South Korea to stay calm. “There’s concern that [new leader] Kim Jong-Un may now try to prove himself,” a government official told ABC News. “He’s young, inexperienced, brash and untested. And while he had the support of his father, it’s unclear if he has the respect of his generals.”

_____________

Stock Markets Rattled

The sudden announcement sent shockwaves through the region and put Asian markets into a tailspin. Japan's main index slipped 1.3 percent, Australia fell by 2.4 percent, Hong Kong shed 1.2 percent, and China lost .3 percent. South Korean stocks fell 4 percent, and the South Korean won fell more than 1 percent against the dollar. The Japanese yen, the euro, and the Australian dollar also fell slightly against the dollar.

____________

inside-north-korea-12
Ilkka Uimonen

____________

Kim Jong-il Names Successor
By Philip Shenon

In July of 2010, The Daily Beast’s Philip Shenon profiled Kim Jong-il’s son—now the new leader of North Korea—Kim Jong-un.

Former classmates say the younger Kim favored expensive American-brand sneakers, loved basketball and worshipped Michael Jordan and Hollywood action star Jean-Claude Van Damme.

American officials acknowledge reluctantly that some of the best information they have about the younger Kim comes from a Japanese sushi chef who worked for the Kim family in the 1990s.

The chef, now back home in Japan and willing to sell his story to any reporter or spy able to pay, has described the younger Kim as ambitious and short-tempered—“a chip off the old block” who was his father’s only obvious successor.

Read More>>

__________

Kim’s Death Spooks China
By Melinda Liu

The passing of the Dear Leader raises anxiety in Asian capitals—none more so than Beijing, which has been the nuclear power’s protector and biggest backer, and has a lot to lose if Pyongyang comes unglued.

News of Kim Jong Il’s death has triggered plunging Asian markets, scenes of weeping North Korean TV announcers, and deep angst in regional capitals. The psyche of the Pyongyang regime is perhaps the most opaque in the world—and few governments will be scrutinizing North Korean news more intensely than China’s.

The problem is not only that so little is known about what Kim’s official successor, third son Kim Jong Eun, has in mind for North Korea’s future directions. The future seems even more puzzling and ambiguous than it was under “the Dear Leader,” who was infamously secretive. Kim Jong-Il loathed international trips and shunned flying in favor of traveling by train. North Korean media reported that Kim died of a massive heart attack Saturday while riding a train en route to a military garrison. (Informed diplomats in Beijing say one reason the late Kim preferred train travel was his obsession with preventing anyone but his own trusted aides from gaining access to his feces and other sources of DNA, since he believed the CIA was intent on obtaining his DNA for genetic analysis and other nefarious purposes.)

MORE>>

________

Video screenshot

________

My Three Sons
by Evan Thomas

In 2009, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas profiled the wacky Kim gang and their strange resemblance to a dynastic mafia fiefdom.

Succession is always a tricky subject in totalitarian states. In the case of North Korea, a bizarre world shrouded in secrecy, it is a source of urgent fascination for the country's neighbors and for the United States, especially since the prize includes control over nuclear weapons and, possibly, the eventual capacity to launch them on Tokyo—or Hawaii.

The current ruler, Kim Jong Il, does seem to be worried about passing power to one of his three sons.

None of them seems remotely ready for the job. They do not appear to be self-indulgent sadists, like Saddam Hussein's evil progeny, Uday and Qusay. They've apparently inherited their father's more benign, if eccentric, tastes for things Western. The North Korean ruler's sons variously worship Armani, NBA stars, Eric Clapton, and Disneyland. The third son, Kim Jong Un, is the most mysterious. That may be for his protection, as he seems to be the heir apparent. But his ability to hold on to power in a renegade dictatorship widely regarded as an international pariah is very uncertain. Newsweek recently tracked the paths of Kim Jong Il's three sons. Their stories might seem comical if the stakes were not so large.

READ MORE>>

______________

Deciphering Kim Jong Il
by Takashi Yokota

The real intentions behind North Korea's nuclear test.

MORE>>

12: Kim Jong Il
by Newsweek

The Dear Leader may be crippled by a stroke. But that's even more worrying.

MORE>>