North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Has the Veneration Campaign for Ko Yo'ng-hu'i restarted?

Two reports out of Japan have surfaced that may add a bit of credence to the Kim Jong-un hereditary succession.  Sande Mainichi quotes an unnamed Ch’ongy’on official: “December 2009 will mark the 50th anniversary of the North Korean repatriation project.  The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan is preparing celebrations, and I have heard that the timing will be utilized to publicly divulge the existence of Ko Yo’ng-hu’i and that substantial progress will be made on the successor project.”  The writer of the piece, who has sixteen years’ experience covering the DPRK, makes a cogent point that I’ve been giving prayerful consideration: “Revelation of Ko Yo’ng-hu’i as a repatriate of a former Korean resident in Japan poses the possibility of triggering a variety of repercussions inside North Korea.  The reason is that repatriates have long been targets of cautionary treatment as having originated in a capitalist society.”

Ko Yo’ng-hu’i was born in 1952 and was part of a group of Korean Japanese who repatriated to the DPRK in 1960.  Her father was a professional wrestler in Japan, which may have had something to do with a 1995 professional wrestling event at Kim Il-sung Stadium between Japanese and US wrestlers.    Ms. Ko is the mother of three (3) of Kim Jong-il’s children: sons Kim Jong-chol (born 1981) and Kim Jong-un (born 1983) and daughter Kim Yo-chong (born 1989).  Kim Jong-chol is said to work in the Propaganda and Agitation Department, and Kim Jong-un is said to work concurrently in the National Defense Commission and Organization and Guidance Department.

Ms. Ko was a dancer in the Mansudae Art Troupe and first met General-Secretary Kim in the 1970’s, and established residence with him around 1980.  Various accounts say she was petite (about 4’10) and was a good cook.  She also did not suffer General-Secretary Kim’s dark moods gladly and could call him out on any histrionics.  General-Secretary Kim is said to have loved her deeply.  She traveled to France and Switzerland where she is said to have undergone medical treatments for breast cancer, from which she succumbed in 2004.  She was also rumored to have been in an automobile accident in 2003, and said to have ties to Kim Kyong-hui and the patronage network of the late KWP International Secretary Kim Yong-sun.

Kim Jong-un

A document allegedly circulated in 2002 by the MPAF Propaganda and Agitation Bureau referred to an unnamed “respected mother” who was depicted much the same way as Kim Jong-suk, a loyal and loving sidekick to the leader.  According to a brilliant analysis in May of this year, the veneration campaign of Ms. Ko was suspended in 2006.  Ms. Ko supposedly had close ties to OGD Deputy Director Ri Je-gang and advanced her sons’ as successor candidates through Mr. Ri.

Also, on the Kim Jong-un front a report from Kyodo News Service takes an increasing usage of English words and phrases in North Korean songs and media as a possible indicator of the Morningstar General’s succession.  Of interest is the phrase “CNC” in a song; CNC being “computer numerical controlled” machines.  CNC has also appeared in reports of Kim Jong-il’s guidance and inspection tours.  Another word Kyodo notes is “yogurt.”  The report also quotes an anonymous source who says that during Wen Jiabao’s October visit to the DPRK,  General-Secretary Kim ended the dinner party at 2 AM.


This article was written on 09 Dec 2009, and is filled under Kim Family, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un, leadership succession, succession.

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