By JON RABIROFF , SETH ROBSON , AND YOO KYONG CHANG
Stars and Stripes
Published: December 19, 2011
SEOUL — The death of longtime North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has thrust the renegade nation into a period of deep uncertainty as the world watches to see whether his young son, Kim Jong Un, can hold onto power or whether more seasoned members of the communist regime attempt to wrest authority from his inexperienced hands.
The likelihood of a seamless leadership change has long been debated among those with interests in the Korean peninsula, especially since Kim Jong Il promoted his son, believed to be in his late 20s, to four-star general and positioned him as the heir apparent to the throne originally held by his Kim Jong Il’s father, the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
North Korea’s Central News Agency announced Monday that Kim Jong Il died Saturday of a heart attack at the age of 69, while on a train trip. His failing health was a poorly kept secret in recent years and he was believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008. He had ruled the cloistered country since 1994.
Experts on North Korea said they expect government and military leaders to rally around Kim Jong Un, at least publicly, in the short term. But, they said, his succession is not certain, and South Korea, the U.S. and North Korea’s northern neighbor and closest ally, China, should be prepared for possible instability if there were a protracted power struggle.
A key player in any power struggle, experts said, would be Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law and a high-ranking member of the North’s National Defense Commission. Jang could facilitate Kim Jong Un’s rise to power or take a more prominent role in running the country himself.
Robert Carlin, a visiting scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said he expects, “a period of stability on the surface, as everyone dances nervously through the next few months, watching everyone else’s face.
“Some people will pay particular attention to Jang Song-thaek and how he knits his brow,” he said. “Some will rally around Kim Jong Un.” CONTINUE READING
Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s self-styled “Dear Leader”, died on Saturday of a heart attack, aged 69. As power transfers to his third son, Kim Jong Un, NewsFeed takes a look at what little is known of the country’s mysterious “Great Successor”, who is thought to be 28.
1 – According to various sources, Kim Jong Un is an NBA fanatic and has had pictures taken with Toni Kukoc of the Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.
2 – The Chosunilbo reports a number of revelations about KJU’s formative years and claims he briefly attended Switzerland’s German-speaking Liebefeld-Steinhölzli School.
3 – It goes on to claim that “Pak Un”, KJU’s assumed name at the Swiss school, was shy and awkward around girls but became fiercely competitive on the basketball court where he was described by peers as “explosive” and a “playmaker”.
4 – The final revelation from the “Great Successor’s” school years was that despite his father’s anti-American stance – KJU had an extensive collection of Nike sneakers, according to former classmate Nikola Kovacevic, who estimated each pair to cost around $200. Read more