North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Jang's Role in KJI China Trip

Jang Song-taek

Chosun Ilbo reports on the appearance of Jang Song Taek in China.  Mr. Jang is KJI’s brother-in-law, a member of the National Defense Commission, director of the KWP Administration Department and, generally speaking anyway, the DPRK’s #2 (although this report puts him at #3 behind VMAR Kim Yong Chun).  Despite the rumors and hype around hereditary successor and youngest KJI son Kim Jong Un, Mr. Jang is still the most powerful person in a post-KJI North Korea.

Jang was seated next to Kim Yong-chun at a meeting the following day between the North Korean leader and Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress.

A Foreign Ministry official said seating arrangements at summits follow close consultations between both countries. “It’s customary for visiting officials to accept the seating arrangements prepared by the host country.” That means China regards Jang as North Korea’s third-highest official after Kim Jong-il and Kim Yong-chun and North Korea agrees.

In North Korea, an administration director ranks lower than a party secretary. The North Korean media duly list Jang after Choe Thae-bok and Kim Ki-nam when identifying members of the North Korean leader’s entourage, which was also the case in reports about Kim’s visit to China. But the seating arrangements at the banquet last Wednesday “demonstrate the difficulty in explaining North Korea’s power structure simply by rank,” according to Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University.

Kim Jong Il's official travel party during his trip to China from 3-7May 2010. Top row (L to R): VMAR Kim Yong Chun (NDC/MPAF); Gen. Hyon Chol Hae (NDC); General Ri Myong Su (NDC); KWP Secretary Choe Tae Bok; Kim Ki Nam; Jang Song Taek. Bottom Row (L to R): Ju Kyu Chang (NDC); KWP North Pyongan Provincial Chief Secretary Kim Pyong Hae; KWP South Hamgyong Provincial Chief Secretary and Vice Premier Tae Jong Su; Senior MOFA Vice Minister Kang Sok Ju; KWP International Department Director Kim Yong Il; KWP United Front Department Director Kim Yong Gon (Photo: Yonhap).

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