12月 01

KIM Jong-il’s primary concern was how to solidify his power base for his son to survive after he is gone.

Written by:Professor Ri So-tetsu, Ryukoku University Japan

At the end of his career, KIM Jong-il’s primary concern was how to solidify his power base for his son to survive after he is gone. He thought it was important to substantiate the guarantee of military support. From early 2009, he also approached powerful organizations including the Organization Guidance Department of the Party, General Political Bureau of the People’s Armed Forces, National Security Protection Department, and Ministry of People’s Security to organize KIM Jong-eun’s rallies and indoctrinations. He also made his son accompany him when visiting military units. In April 2009, he took his son to the Musudan rocket launching control tower in Hamgyong-Pukto to observe the launching of the BrightStar-2 Satellite (actually a long range ballistic missile). After this visit, KIM Jong-il made his son praise the missile technicians and boasted to the military leaders that it was the young general’s idea to launch the rocket to antagonize the strong enemy objections. It was really an awkward image encouraging a show-off to say, “In fact, my young general (KIM Jong-eun) played a decisive role as the intrepid commander to control the army, navy, and air force to frighten the enemy.” KIM Jong-il also spoke as if his son masterminded the nuclear test in May 2009.  
During that period, KIM Jong-il’s health was aggravated greatly. From May 2009, he started to take kidney dialysis. He said to his close followers that his health was not as good as before and made his son KIM Jong-eun handle all the reports received from the General Political Bureau of the People’s Armed Forces, National Security Protection Department, and Ministry of People’s Security. According to the military indoctrination program titled “The Power of Our Young General KIM Jong-eun”, all military units were required to sing a song to praise KIM Jong-eun from October 2009 and all organizations carried out KIM Jong-eun adoration programs without any bickering. However, his economic achievements was not astute. Progress on the 100,000 family housing construction project to mark KIM Il-sung’s centennial on April 15 2012, was very sluggish. They finished only 500 family housing units by January 2010. KIM Jong-eun complained about financial difficulties, “My old man (his father) does not disburse the funds adequately for some reason. I cannot push the project without money.” Among the party cadre circle, there was a floating rumor that KIM Jong-il was not fully satisfied with son’s ability and finesse in the economic affairs. The US and South Korean intelligence services analyzed that KIM Jong-il was testing his son’s leadership and ability in handling various economic projects but disappointed.
It is unknown why KIM Jong-eun arranged a program from 2010 for his father to see stage performance more than once a week. In January 2010, KIM Jong-il viewed the Russian opera “Yevgeny Onegin” arranged in Korean commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Korea-Russia Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. KIM Jong-eun believed his father would be consoled when he listens to Russian music. Nevertheless, according to many defectors, KIM Jong-il experienced a light stroke again in March 2010 and he started to let KIM Jong-eun handle most state affairs. The North Korean torpedoes-attacked the South Korean naval vessel Chonanham (PCC-772) near the NLL on the West coast on March 26 2010 killing 46. It was when KIM Jong-eun was steering the helm of the state. The US intelligence analysts viewed this awful incident as KIM Jong-eun’s reckless brutality to show off his fearlessness.
While an international joint investigation was being conducted and the UN Security Council was groping for a resolution by denouncing North Korea, KIM Jong-il visited China in May 2010 with his ailing frame to exculpate the Chonanham incident and to notify his plan for power succession to his son. On May 5 2010, he met Chinese President Hu Jintao in the People’s Grand Hall in Beijing and emphasized that the traditional friendship between the two country’s leaders must be maintained even through the next generations. But the Chinese leadership was rather stiff. Hu Jintao brought up five points in a composed tone. Without discussing anything about economic cooperation between the two countries, Hu criticized North Korea’s repeated reckless provocations. According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, Hu demanded that KIM maintain prior coordination with China on common interests such as domestic problems, important diplomatic issues, regional and the international security situation and inter-Korean matters.  
Hu said to KIM, “You and I are of the same age (actually KIM Jong-il was one year older than Hu Jintao), but you became the national leader long before me. Now let’s look at the situations in our two countries. 1.3 billion people under my leadership never starved to death, How come you cannot provide sufficient food to your 25 million people without begging for food from China? Our two countries embarked on the socialist system at the same time, but why are the situations are so different?” To KIM Jong-il it was harsh criticism, but he had to hear more thorny advice in the presence of his entourage. Hu continued, “It’s about time for you to introduce reform policies like Deng Xiaoping was done.” The following day, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao also advised KIM Jong-il to adopt a Chinese style economic reform policy.  
After he returned from China, KIM Jong-il started displaying some awkward behavior. After viewing the comedy “Mountain Echo” on the National Stage Theater, he ordered to dismantle the theater which was only seven years old. Nevertheless, he viewed the same show two more times thereafter. South Korean National Intelligence Service suspected that KIM Jong-il might be suffering from dementia as an aftereffect of stroke. When he visited a cooperative farm in Hamgyong-Pukto, he told the farmers nothing, “It is no good for farmers to eat potatoes only. I will send you some rice.” He was no longer a thorough and whole hog micromanager. 

About the Author
Ri Sotetsu is professor of sociology at Ryukoku University, Kyoto; his specialty is modern history of East Asia and media history. The son of ethnic Koreans residing in Heilongjiang province, he was born in 1959 and educated in China. He lived in China and worked as a journalist for a time before going to Japan, where he earned a doctorate(Ph.D.) degree in journalism at Sophia University. He is a Japanese citizen. In 1998 he was appointed assistant professor at Ryukoku University and became professor in 2005. He is a prolific writer of articles and books studying the history of journalism in the former Manchuria and in Japanese-occupied Korea and analyzing current affairs in North and South Korea. Among his major works (all in Japanese) are: Kim Jong-Il to Kim Jong-Eun no shotai (On the Identity of Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Eun; Bungei Shunju), Park Geun-hye no chosen: Mukuge no hana ga saku toki (Park Geun-hye’s Challenge: When the Hibiscus Blooms; Chuo Koron Shinsha), and Higashi-Ajia no aidentetei: Ni-Chu-Kan wa koko ga chigau (Identity in East Asia: Here Is How Japan, China, and Korea Differ; Gaifusha).

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