Kim Jong Un’s uncle suddenly relevant after four decades abroad

(Bloomberg) -- For about as long as North Korea has existed, Kim Pyong Il has been considered a possible successor to the throne. “The problem is that a Kim Yo Jong-led North Korea is unlikely to be sustainable,” Thae said, warning that collective leadership with her as the figurehead could lead to chaos. On April 27, 2018, Kim made history by becoming the first North Korean leader in over 60 years to cross the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). A report by the country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the announcement was made during a visit to the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site. Kim’s installation as heir apparent to his father was confirmed in 2009, when he was appointed to the National Defense Commission and promoted to the rank of “Daejang,” which is the equivalent of a four-star American general, despite having no military experience. As a young boy, Kim was enrolled at a German-speaking school near Bern, Switzerland, under the name “Pak Un.” He was supposedly the son of an employee at the North Korean embassy in the country. Later that year, he removed then-Army chief Ri Yong Ho and took that position too, thereby consolidating political, economic and military power in his hands. South Korean ruling party lawmaker Kim Byeong-ki, a member of parliament’s intelligence committee, said Sunday on social media that there was no indication he could possibly succeed Kim Jong Un if the leader were incapacitated: “I laugh off these theories.” North Korea has often exiled those who fall out of favor, sending them aboard in attempts to erase their influence, but also providing a financial lifeline that keeps them dependent on Pyongyang’s rulers. If Kim Pyong Il took power, it could put a great number of the current top leadership in jeopardy after they spent decades working to suppress his influence. He has been the subject of speculation for decades in South Korea in unverified reports about family intrigue, often including house arrests and attempted assassinations. Before his years abroad, he served in the army, commanding an elite body guard unit, and also was appointed to posts in the ruling party, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry. “Kim Yo Jong has a special status in the regime, and I think in this case, her connection to the Kim family trumps her gender.” For more articles like this, please visit us at ©2020 Bloomberg L.P.