North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Does PRC ‘Want’ Jong Un Succession?

Kim Jong Un

Two DPRK experts based in South Korea believe that China has acquiesced to the hereditary succession system, centered around Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, Kim Jong Un (Kim Ch’ong-u’n; Kim Jong Eun).  It is believed that China may agree to the succession system “to maintain peace and stability in the region,” according to Korea Times:

Paik said Beijing is deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of Kim Jong-il, which will sooner or later result in a power vacuum in the impoverished yet nuclear-armed North, unless the power transfer is successfully completed.

He noted that China approved Kim Jong-il’s inheritance of power from his father, Kim Il-sung, in 1994, even though it viewed such power transfers as not ideal in the socialist model and believed it would trigger a backlash from the international community.

However, Paik said it is unlikely that the Chinese leadership will publicly discuss or announce the endorsement of the North’s father-to-son succession, fearing criticism for interfering in another country’s domestic affairs.

Chon Hyun-joon, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, agrees with Paik regarding China’s stance on the succession.

“Not only to Kim Jong-il himself, but also the elite group close to him are frightened about his worsening health conditions,” he said in an article published in the August edition of Unification Era, published by the National Unification Advisory Council.

In the article, he claimed that the “fear factor” has given great momentum to the much-speculated power succession and this will likely help him be tapped as a senior secretary of the Central Party in September.

He also claims that China appears to have already endorsed Jong-un, who highly values his country’s ties with China, as the heir of North Korea.

Chon, however, said that South Korea should also be prepared for a scenario where Jong-un fails to succeed his father, given that he is still in his late 20s and lacks experiences.


This article was written on 07 Aug 2010, and is filled under DPRK External Relations, DPRK-China Relations, Kim Family, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un, leadership succession, succession.

An affiliate of 38 North