Is North Korean leader Kim yielding power to sister? - Korea Times
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Is North Korean leader Kim yielding power to sister?

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over the 6th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang, Thursday. Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over the 6th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang, Thursday. Yonhap

Spy agency analysis again fuels speculation on NK leader's health

By Yi Whan-woo

The analysis by the country's spy agency that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has partly delegating authority to his sister and aides is again fueling speculation over his health, following rumors and unconfirmed news in April that he was in grave danger after undergoing surgery.

Some experts said Friday that yielding power, even a bit, was unthinkable under any circumstances in North Korea led by the Kim family's three-generations of one-man rule.

They said Kim, whose obesity, chain-smoking and other health problems have always been an issue, is in a critical condition and that his regime is shifting to a new rule jointly led by his powerful younger sister Kim Yo-jong and other aides

The experts argue the NIS was mistaken when it briefed lawmakers in a closed-door session of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee, Thuerday, that Kim partly delegated his authority to reduce the stress he suffered from ruling the country for nine years.

The NIS also stated Kim left state affairs in general to Kim Yo-jong and defense, the development of strategic weapons and the economy to three trusted aides.

It claimed that the changes didn't appear to be linked to any major health problems.

"Kim Jong-un has been in a critical condition for months at least and the North Korean leadership, after panicking, eventually came up with an alternative to one-man rule," said Shin In-kyun, president of the Korea Defense Network. "And the NIS failed to see such a change and rather analyzed it as if the North Korean dictator was partly giving away his powers."

Shin said he "has no doubts" about speculation raised by another expert, Chang Song-min, who said Kim was in a coma but his younger sister had not taken over power despite the power restructuring.

A former aide to the late President Kim Dae-jung, Chang posted on Facebook, Thursday, that such an unstable shift in power was being witnessed through some of Kim Jong-un's powers being delegated to trusted officials.

"No North Korean leader would entrust any of their authority to another person unless he was too sick to rule or had been removed in a coup," Chang wrote.

He added that a complete succession structure had not been formed and Kim Yo-jong was "being brought to the fore as the leadership vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period."

Other experts disagreed with the power restructuring being associated with a health problem. They speculated that while Kim has entrusted specific affairs to his aides this does not mean he is endowing them with permanent powers.

"I think the NIS should have been more careful in explaining about the change in Kim's rule," said Park Won-gon, an international relations professor at Handong Global University. "The NIS made the wrong choice of words and this is causing misunderstanding about Kim's rule and promoting controversy over his health again."

Kim Dong-yeop, a research professor at the Kyungnam University Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the NIS analysis of Kim being stressed out and partly delegating his authority was "disappointing."

"The NIS should have said the North Korean leader has been 'distributing missions' to his aides while being in control of all affairs, not delegating authority to his aides.'"

The professor pointed out Kim is in this mid-30s and handing over power to his aides because of stress was "even more nonsense."

"He is too young to give away his power just because he is stressed out," the professor said.


Yi Whan-woo yistory@koreatimes.co.kr


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