Korea: It's A Family Affair


September 29, 2010:  The North Korean government officially announced that leader Kim Jong Il's third son, 28 year old Kim Jong Un, would be his heir and the next ruler of North Korea. Kim Jong Il also promoted his younger sister, Kim Kyong Hui, to the rank of general. Kyoung Hui's husband, Chang Song Taek, is second-in-command in North Korea and was long believed to be a possible successor to Kim Jong Il. But now it appears that he and his wife will be the main advisors, and adult supervision, for Kim Jong Un, if the younger Kim does manage to succeed his ailing father. Chang Song Taek is a traditionalist, who is opposed by a growing number of senior officials who back Chinese calls for economic reform. China is believed to back the reformers, even though China recently gave its blessing for Kim Jong Un being the heir. Despite pressure from the reformers, Chang hangs on because he has the support of the senior leadership in the military and security forces. But younger members of these organizations are becoming more corrupt and less disciplined because of the continuing economic decline.

The government has been distributing new official photos of leader Kim Jong Il, which now show heir-apparent son Kim Jong Un standing next to his father. All this is a bit rushed. Kim Jong Il was not introduced as the heir-apparent until he was 32, and then played the role for 20 years before taking over after Kim Il Sung died. In East Asia, a national leader younger than 40 is unheard of, and does not inspire confidence or loyalty.

South Korea refused a North Korean request to resume tourist visits to the north. This was a major source of foreign currency for the north, which is needed to buy essential items for the military, and consumer goods to keep the senior leadership happy.

September 28, 2010:  In the north, dictator Kim Jong Il appointed his son, Kim Jong Un to Central Committee of the Workers (communist) Party. The Central Committee contains the senior officials of the North Korean government.

September 27, 2010: In the north, dictator Kim Jong Il promoted his son, Kim Jong Un, to the rank of one star army general (a "Major General" in the north). For a 28 year old, this is very unusual. But the Kim family has ruled North Korea for 65 years, in part, because they have provided military leadership to protect the communist government from all enemies. But only founder Kim Il Sung was an actual military commander, and not a very good one at that. The myth is important in maintaining the image of Kim family power. Kim Jong Il is regularly referred to as "the general," even though he has no real military experience.

South Korean intelligence analysts believe North Korea has 1.1 million tons stored in about 300 storage depots and in local food distribution centers. But only 45 percent of that rice is for the general population, providing about seven weeks food supply. The rest is reserved for the military, providing enough for several years.  Although if several million of the seven million reservists were called up, the military food reserve would last for about a year.

September 18, 2010: American intelligence officials believe that North Korea has sold nuclear weapons technology (how to build a bomb) to Iran. Details could not be released on how this information was obtained, without endangering methods and sources.

September 17, 2010:  For the first time in three years, South Korea sent food aid (rice) to North Korea, to help feed people wiped out by the recent floods.


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