North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is expected to convene a rare ruling party meeting this week to pave the way for his youngest son to take power, in what would be the country’s second dynastic succession.
The event, like all political processes in North Korea, will be shrouded in secrecy. Even the starting date and duration are unclear.
Official media have said only that this month’s conference of key delegates — the first of its kind since 1966 — will elect the party’s “highest leading body.”
However, analysts expect delegates to anoint Kim’s son Jong-un as eventual heir to his ailing 68-year-old father — even though Jong-un may not move into the limelight by taking a high-profile party post.
Instead, Kim Jong-il’s already powerful brother-in-law Jang Song-thaek and other supporters of the son would be given high party positions to ensure an eventual succession goes smoothly.
“Through the reshuffle, Jang and others who will act as a stepping stone for the succession are likely to be brought in to the vacant seats of the Presidium of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the party,” Kim Yong-hyun of Seoul’s Dongguk University said.
The presidium, the highest party organ, currently has just one member — Kim Jong-il himself, the four other members having died.
Kim Yong-hyun said Jong-un may be given some official positions this week but these would not be made public.
Yang Moo-jin of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies also said the party meeting, which would last at least three days, would lay the foundation for another ruling family succession.
He said that Jang and a few generals would fill vacancies in the highly prestigious presidium.
A few dozen people were likely to be appointed to the central committee, whose original membership of about 90 has been reduced to around 60, he said.
The senior Kim’s visit to northeast China late last month was seen partly as a preparation for change.
During a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Kim Jong-il stressed the need to prepare for the “rising generation.” He visited a series of sites linked to his late father, a guerrilla fighter.
Analysts saw this as a bid to confer legitimacy on another father-to-son power transfer.
However, public skepticism is growing about the prospect, according to a South Korean welfare group with cross-border contacts.
“Ordinary people in the country are not interested in the father-to-son transfer of power,” Lee Seung-yong, director of the Good Friends group, said last week. “They think their living standards will not improve even if the son inherits power.”
Many senior party officials are also skeptical about Jong-un given his youth and inexperience, Lee said.
Kim Jong-il is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 and has since then reportedly been speeding up succession plans.
Yang said the expanded party central committee was likely to announce new policies aimed at stimulating the economy, following the trip to China.
“The North may announce a new economic development plan aimed at attracting investment from abroad,” he said.
Kim Yong-hyun also said the North was likely to announce measures to enhance economic cooperation with China, including investment in its special economic zones.
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