Kim’s son remains firmly in power, for now

By Park Chan-Kyong, AFP

SEOUL — The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has sent shockwaves around the world, but analysts played down fears of turbulence in the nuclear-armed nation and said a well-planned succession is under way. Official announcements Monday on North Korean media, which revealed Kim had died two days previously at the age of 69, make it clear that his youngest son and heir apparent Jong Un is firmly in power — at least for now — they said. South Korea ordered its military to go on alert but as talk turned to the threat of war, President Lee Myung-bak urged people to stay calm. “I think there will be no immediate turbulence in the North’s internal politics or foreign affairs,” said Paik Hak-soon of Seoul’s Sejong Institute think-tank. The North’s media urged people to follow the leadership of Jong Un, with the state news agency dubbing him the “great successor.” “All the party members, servicepersons and people should remain loyal to the guidance of respected Kim Jong Un and firmly protect and further cement the single-minded unity of the party, the army and the people,” it said. Observers of the hermit state, which has long alarmed the international community with its nuclear capability and erratic manner, dispelled fears of an immediate power struggle or a military coup. “This clearly indicates that Jong Un is already firmly in power, and all key officials under Kim Jong Il have decided for the past two days since Kim’s death to support Jong Un as the new leader,” Paik said.

“The North’s top guys have already sorted out everything, and the regime seems to be stable under the new leadership. I don’t expect any major turbulence or power struggle within the regime in the foreseeable future.” “The Kim Jong Un era has already started.” Little is known about Kim Jong Un, the Swiss-educated young man who is now expected to extend the Kim dynasty into a third generation. Aged in his late 20s, he had little public profile until his father suffered a stroke in 2008, forcing the succession plans to be accelerated.

In September 2010 he was handed senior ruling party posts and made a four-star general, despite his lack of any military experience. Since then, he has been constantly at his father’s side.