North: Son will carry on father’s legacy
Sets up transition period, just like after 1994 death
North Korea’s main newspaper ran its first tributes to its new leader Kim Jong-un, announcing that the son would lead the country by carrying on the legacy of his father, Kim Jong-il, who died Saturday.
Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party, said the country’s young leader would be guided by his father’s yuhun, or legacy, which would allow for an interim, transitional period for the son to take up Kim Jong-il’s mantle and consolidate power for himself, just as his father did in 1994 after Kim Il Sung’s death.
Calling Kim Jong-un a “great leader,” the newspaper declared, “At the front-line of our revolution stands our comrade Kim Jong-un, great successor to the juche [self-reliance] revolution’s achievements and leader of our party, army and people.”
Rodong Sinmun continued, “Our beloved and respected general [Kim Jong-il] revered the yuhun of our great father Kim Il Sung and did everything he could to realize national unification as a top priority of the people. We should walk our own path of the self-reliance, military-first revolution by keeping the yuhun of comrade Kim Jong-il.”
When Kim Jong-il took helm of the regime after his father’s death in 1994, he left his father’s positions vacant for three years in an act of mourning and intensified the cult of personality around his deceased father.
By declaring that Kim Jong-il would carry on the founding leader’s legacy, North Korea helped avoid a public revolt and other turmoil at the time, despite an ailing, collapsing economy in the aftermath of the cold war.
The North’s unique format of transition did not mean, however, that Kim Jong-il had his hands tied, but allowed the son to parley his father’s influence to govern over national affairs and steadily earn the loyalty of the public.
While it is not yet known whether Kim Jong-un will similarly observe a three-year mourning period for his father, Rodong Sinmun specifically detailed three tasks for the country’s new leader, which have been oft-repeated by official media: a military-first policy, unification of the two Koreas and establishment of a strong, prosperous country.
“We are now living in an era that will open the door to a strong, prosperous nation ... We are now full of passion to revere the military-first leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un ... We will firmly cooperate with each other to realize our long-time wish, national unification,” the newspaper editorial said.
A South Korean source has said that Kim Jong-un made his first order as four-star general and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, just before the announcement of his father’s death, when he ordered all military units to suspend field exercises and training and return to their bases.
The comment fueled debate over whether Kim Jong-un had obtained complete control of the North’s 1.2-million-member military, a backbone of the communist country’s leadership.
South Korean media has speculated that the young leader, if he had control of the military, would soon be named the country’s chief military official.
Representative Kwon Young-se, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, refuted the speculation yesterday, however.
“It’s still too early to say that Kim has complete control over the military,” Kwon said on a radio program. “It’s natural that Kim Jong-un made that order to the military after Kim Jong-il’s death.”
The White House also publicly called the North’s new leader by his full name.
As of Wednesday, it had only used the term “the new leadership” when referring to young Kim.
“Kim Jong-il had designated Kim Jong-un as his official successor, and at this time we have no indication that that has changed,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.
By Kim Hee-jin [firstname.lastname@example.org]