North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Will Jong Un Indications Appear at KIS Birthday?

Supposed photograph of Kim Jong-un in 1998, around age 14

Jiji reports that Kim Jong Un accompanied KJI at a fireworks celebrations for Kim Il Sung’s Birthday last April (2009).  The source was described as a person who was present at the events.  The report speculates on the possibility of the Morningstar General making an appearance at this year’s commemorative events.

Kim Jong Il’s visit to Kim Il Sung University this week found him walking the Stations of Piety to KIS.  There was an undertone of the old home weekend when he posed for a commemorative photo with KISU alums and titled faculty.  Yet the KCNA report underscored KJI visiting the university’s E-Library, and making a point of going to the swimming complex, amenities for future North Korean elites such as current student, KJI’s youngest child and Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo-chong.

KJI’s observation of KPA Unit 567’s exercises, an event held to commemorate the Day of the Sun, may also indicate Kim Jong Un’s succession.  It will be no great surprise if Pyongyang watchers soon read or hear a rumor that the 13 April military exercises were managed or coordinated by KJU.  It has been alleged that artillery drills and (joint) military exercises have been written up as KJU’s accomplishments.  A report in Dong-a Ilbo in early March said that KJU was undergoing an intensive military education.  Succession may also explain the largest KPA promotions list issued since KJI formally took the reins in 1997.

Daily NK‘s Kim So Yeol writes about the promotions list and succession:

Experts on North Korea interpret this measure as an attempt to boost the military authorities’ morale and establish the Kim Jong Eun succession system.

A professor with the Korean National Defense University, Kim Yeon Su analyzed, “It was done in the same context as the elevation of the status of the People’s Safety Ministry. Widespread promotion of high officials within the National Security Agency including U Dong Cheuk was likely a way to strengthen the NSA.”

Therefore, Kim believes, “It seems to be closely related to the succession system. Officials loyal to Kim Jong Eun may be being placed in core positions within the military.”

A lower military official in North Korea is usually promoted through a so-called Order of the Supreme Commander, while higher levels are promoted according to the decision of the Central Committee of the Party and the National Defense Commission on the birthdays of Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il, or on the Founding Day of the Workers’ Party.

An affiliate of 38 North