Who can replace Kim Jong-un?

Who can replace Kim Jong-un?
Who can replace Kim Jong-un?

With North Korea saying nothing so far about Kim Jong-un health condition, the inevitable question as being raised over who would take over control of the country if his ruling was cut short.

Reports that indicated that the North Korean leader was in serious health condition following an a hearth surgery where denied by both Chinese and South Korea intelligence agencies. However the agencies did not deny that the North Korean leader has had minor health worries.

While the Kim family has ruled for seven decades by passing power between male heirs like other hereditary dynasties, the 36-year-old Kim has named no successor.

As a matter of fact the absence of the North Korean leader on 15 of April of the anniversary of his grandfather and country father came as surprise and was considered  highly unusual.

Considering that the leadership of North Korean has always been passed down through male hereditary heirs and Kim has not a single known male adult son, here are some scenarios of what could happen.

Since at the beginning of his government the dictator has been known for purging is rivals including close family member with some exceptions.

Kim Jong-un’s sister  

Kim Yo-jong, the dictator’s younger sister, has an active role in the ruling working party acting as a de facto  chief of staff of the party.  She has been increasingly trusted by the leader in performing some public task.

Kim Yo-jong has become the single most important figure in the North Korean regime after her brother, the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

In February, she made her first public statement, condemning Seul as a “frightened dog barking” after South Korea protested against a live-fire military exercise.

She also publicly praised US President Donald Trump for sending Kim a letter in which he reportedly said he wished to maintain good bilateral relations and offered help in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The publication of political statements in Kim Yo-jong’s name signals her her central role in the regime.

Analysts are divided on whether she could be a suitable candidate as it’s true that on the one side she has some characteristic to succeed being a direct descendent of the dictator’s dynasty but on the other and North Korea is a rigid patriarchy and her gender rules most likely rule her out of anything more than a side character in the event of his brother departure.

Kim Jong-un’s brother

Kim has one surviving brother, an older brother, who has been known for his love for music and guitar rather than politics according to some sources close to him.

Thae Yong Ho, the former number two at North Korea’s embassy in London who defected to South Korea, once said Kim’s elder brother “doesn’t own any official title”, adding he’s “just a really talented guitarist”.

Sources said that it would be a long-shot for him to return to public life after such a long period outside of North Korean politics.

Kim Jong-un young son

Another option will see is youngest son from his previous marriage as a possible heirs to the throne.

A male heir would provide the most conventional line of succession in a dynasty previously ruled by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, and founded by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

Unfortunately not much is know about the private life of North Korean leader.

South Korean intelligence said Kim married Ms Ri Sol Ju, a former singer, in 2009.

All is known is that he has three children including a son born in 2010.

The young age of Kim’s child will most likely mean that it would be needed to be a regent for a transition period till he come to age for ruling. 

Donald Trump’s national security advisor Robert Ryan said that the basic assumption on Kim‘s succession is that it could be running in his family. 

Matteo Natalucci

Matteo Natalucci is a geopolitics expert working as an Editor in London covering all aspects of international affairs and technology. Matteo previously worked for the United Nations, the European Commission, Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg, IHS Markit, and Global Data. Get in touch with the author: matteo.natalucci@internationalinsider.org
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