He said Kim Jong-un may take a back seat to a group of regents during an extended mourning period.
“The question will be: If he does - again, in accordance with traditional mourning and his young age - take a little bit of a back seat, even for a couple years as he establishes himself, then it’s going to be very difficult to figure out what’s the balance of control between Kim Jong-un and these other, more senior, more experienced figures.”
John Park of the U.S. Institute for Peace calls the aunt and uncle “key pillars” for the young Mr. Kim as he looks to establish his leadership. But he questions whether their power - derived from their personal association with Kim Jong-il - will endure now that he’s gone.
“Jang is clearly someone whose major task on behalf of the Kim family is to guide and shepherd Kim Jong-un and to insulate and protect him … to help him ward off assaults on the authority of the family,” said Stephen Bosworth, former U.S. special envoy for North Korea.
Kim Jong-il played rival groups off one another, but everyone knew his or her position relied on him. “The key question is whether Kim Jong-un can achieve that, even in coordination with his regent aunt and uncle,” Mr. Bosworth said.
An important factor in his favor is that communist North Korea has known rule only by the Kims, and military and party leaders likely view a successful transition as key to their survival.
“The North Korean regime is in a classic, ‘we all hang together or we all hang separately’ kind of mode,” Mr. Bosworth said. “There’s a great imperative for cohesion.”
Here is a look at key members of the inner circle in North Korea:
Mrs. Kim is the late leader’s younger sister. She kept a low profile for decades until 2009, when she began appearing with her brother during “on-the-spot guidance” trips nationwide.
Now considered a top political official who has shot up in the ranks in two years, she is expected to play a caretaker role with her nephew.
She serves as director of the light-industry department of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, a position that has gained significance since North Korea made the industry sector a priority in 2009.
She also was appointed to the Political Bureau last year and, like her nephew, was made a general in the Korean People’s Army.View Entire Story
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