North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kim Jong Un Resurfaces

A special train carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-il crosses the Amrok Bridge sitting on the North Korea-China border to head for the North Korean city of Shinuiju on May 27, ending Kim's weeklong visit to China. (Yonhap)

When a train crossed the DPRK-PRC border on 26 May, the occupant was said to be Kim Cho’ng-u’n.  Pyongyang watchers widely anticipated the hereditary successor’s sojourn to the PRC in 2011, similar to Kim Cho’ng-il’s 1983 trip.  Instead, images caught in Mudanjiang (a city where Kim Il-so’ng once resided) showed Kim Cho’ng-il, attended with Party Secretaries Choe T’ae-pok (Choe Tae Bok) and Kim Ki-nam, entering a limousine.  Global Times reported that Cho’ng-u’n was not traveling with his father when a rumor surfaced that he had flown to Nanjing on an Air Koryo charter.

On 27 May KCNA reported that Kim Cho’ng-u’n was a member of a group of senior party and government officials who welcomed Kim Cho’ng-il back to the DPRK:

He was warmly greeted at the border of the country by Kim Jong Un, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK; Kim Kyong Hui, member of the Political Bureau and department director of the C.C., the WPK; Ri Myong Su, minister of People’s Security; Generals of the Korean People’s Army Kim Won Hong and Hyon Chol Hae and other senior officials of the party and army.

The senior officials of the party and army warmly congratulated him on his successful visit to China, offering the unanimous best wishes of the entire army and people to him who made a safe return home after adding another brilliant page to the history of the DPRK-China friendship by making a 6 000 km-long journey.

Kim Jong Il met with the officials present there and extended a warm salute to all the beloved people of the country upon his return home.

Earlier, he passed through Dandong, a border city of China.

He was warmly seen off at Dandong Railway Station by Wang Jiarui, head of the International Liaison Department of the C.C., the CPC, Wang Min, secretary of the Liaoning Provincial Committee of the CPC; Liu Hongcai, Chinese ambassador to the DPRK; Hu Yadong, vice-minister of Railways; the secretary-general of the Liaoning Provincial Committee of the CPC; the vice-governor and concurrently chief of Public Security of Liaoning Province, the assistant to the head of the International Liaison Department of the C.C., the CPC; Dai Yulin, secretary of the Dandong City Committee of the CPC; and the acting mayor of Dandong City.

Kim Cho’ng-u’n would go on to accompany Kim Cho’ng-il on a tour of the Hu’icho’n Power Station (4th L) in Chagang Province (14th L), and attend a concert given by the Korean People’s Internal Security (Interior) Forces’ Song and Dance Ensemble.  This was the first reported performance of this art propaganda group attended by Minister of People’s Security Ri Myo’ng-su since his April appointment.  Kim Cho’ng-il last attended a concert by the group in February 2011 which was the last reported public appearance by Ri’s predecessor at MPS, Chu Sang-song (Ju Sang Song).

Yonhap reports:

The concert featuring music and dance by the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces marked the first time that a celebratory event has been held over Kim’s Chinese trips since 2000.

“As Kim Jong Il appeared in the auditorium of the theater, the audience enthusiastically welcomed him, offering the deepest respect and the warmest congratulations to him,” the KCNA said.

The KCNA lauded Kim’s “energetic foreign activities day and night through more than 6,000 km-long trip,” saying the visit “made an undying contribution to the development of the DPRK-China friendship and the prosperity of the socialist country.” DPRK is the acronym for the North’s official name.

Kim “acknowledged the enthusiastic cheers of the audience and extended a warm salute to the whole army and all the people of the country who are waging a dynamic drive to build a great prosperous and powerful nation,” the KCNA said.

His youngest son and heir-apparent, Kim Jong-un, attended the concert along with other members of the ruling elite, the KCNA said.

Cho'ng-u'n visits the CPV Martyrs Cemetery in October 2010 (Photo: KCNA)

But it seems Kim Cho’ng-u’n was kept on ice for several weeks.  Despite receiving a gift from a Russian delegation when it dined with Kim Cho’ng-il on 17 May, Cho’ng-u’n’s last reported public appearance may have been his attendance at the 4 May opening of the KPA Sports Complex.  Chosun Ilbo reports:

Experts have been quick to speculate why. Ryu Dong-ryeol, a senior researcher at the Police Science Institute, offered this guess: “With his father away, Kim Jong-un is going through an important apprenticeship process in ruling the country. He’s probably receiving reports from the party, the government, and the military and passing the important ones on to his father.”

Prof. Nam Joo-hong of Kyonggi University agreed. “Kim Jong-un probably couldn’t leave Pyongyang” since both his father and his uncle Jang Song-taek, who is believed to be the real power behind the throne, are in China.

A source familiar with North Korean affairs said, “Rumor had it that in 1982 Kim Jong-il accompanied his father Kim Il-sung and both met Deng Xiaoping, but Jong-il was scolded by his father for behaving arrogantly, and Kim senior traveled to China alone the next year. Kim Jong-il also has some misgivings about his son, so it seems he left him behind in Pyongyang.”

A South Korean government official pointed out that the North Korean media have never reported on Kim Jong-un’s solo activities but only when he accompanies his father, so it stands to reason that he flies under the radar if he remains behind in the North.

Meanwhile, Beijing had the political atmosphere of old home week, according to Times of India:

China simultaneously hosted two Asian leaders , who rarely visit foreign countries to avoid answering questions about the poor human rights record in their respective countries, over the past few days. They are Myanmar president U Thein Sein and Kim Jong Il, the top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea.

What foreign policy officials in New Delhi, Washington and several other national capitals are keenly watching is signs of possible linkages between leaders of Myanmar and North Korea. There are reports of Myanmar’s nuclear ambitions , and it might be keen on obtaining some technical support in this field from North Korea, informed sources said.

Burma’s state-run The New Light of Myanmar has reported that Maj-Gen Thein Htay, the countrys minister of Border Affairs and Industrial Development, held a meeting with North Korean ambassador Kim Sok Chol on Tuesday. It did not give any details about the content of the talks. Both countries depend on Chinese assistance because they have been refused support by western powers.

An affiliate of 38 North