Kim picks his successor

posted at 10:11 am on June 2, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, I criticized Barack Obama for appointing a 31-year-old with no executive or auto-industry experience to run the GM bankruptcy.  Now, though, Obama has competition for the Most Clueless Executive.  Kim Jong-Il has finally selected a successor to run his regime in North Korea, and he’s chosen a 25-year-old layabout.  At least this one’s related:

North Korea’s ailing leader has chosen his youngest son — who is just 26, attended a Swiss boarding school and reportedly admires basketball great Michael Jordan — as heir to the family dynasty that rules the secretive state, South Korea’s intelligence service told lawmakers in Seoul.

Kim Jong-un is the third son of Kim Jong Il, the “Dear Leader” who suffered a stroke last summer and who has since appeared thin and frail. He is the grandson of the late Kim Il Sung, the “Great Leader” and founding dictator of North Korea.

If Kim Jong-un does become the new leader — and there are analysts who doubt the decision is final — this second consecutive father-to-son hand off would be unique among nations that call themselves communist. There was no indication, however, that Kim Jong Il would be handing over power any time soon.

The official name of North Korea, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, would become an anachronism.  The “republic” would turn into a de facto monarchy, with Kim’s royal family holding power.  Not only is this unique among communist nations, it’s also unique among those nations gripped by cults of personality.  Usually the cult dies with the first leader; transferring it to two succeeding generations would be quite a feat.

That may not happen, however.  Kim Jong-Un has no real power base, which is why Kim Jong-Il let the military have its field day with missile and nuclear-weapons tests.  Kim père has to get them to agree to the transfer of power when he dies, or his youngest son will join him quickly in death.

Even with the freedom to play with the shiny toys, one has to wonder whether the military will merely humor the elder Kim until he finally reaches room temperature.  North Korea is starving to death, isolated from the world, a pariah nation that can look across the DMZ and see what might have been.  The chain of command may already believe that they could do a better job running the joint than the current Kim, and a 26-year-old rookie won’t look like a good bet for them.  Rather than wait for Jong-Un to build his own cult of personality and become too powerful to control, I’d bet that Kim’s generals already have plans to end the Kim dynasty after the second Dear Leader leaves.


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So I guess we’ll call him … Lil Kim?

Rosmerta on June 2, 2009 at 10:15 AM

We hardly needed this to label the “Democratic People’s Republic” an outright fraud from beginning to end.

Count to 10 on June 2, 2009 at 10:16 AM

Who cares. If Iran can be a legitimate nuclear power, so can North Korea. I bet Obama can provide all sorts of economic assistance too.

Skywise on June 2, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Is his hair as awesome as his dad’s? You can’t be Dear Leader unless you’re totally stylin’ (see Obama, Barack and Michelle).

ExcessivelyDiverted on June 2, 2009 at 10:19 AM

after the second Dear Leader leaves.

Wasn’t the “Dear Leader”s father the “Great Leader”?

Count to 10 on June 2, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Good rap, Ed.

If Kim were sane, his choice of this youth might be to avoid prejudicing the inevitable power struggle amongst the powers that be in his realm. He gives all the big shots a little boy who provides a figurehead for the masses to adore while they conduct rule behind the curtain; anything that goes wrong they can blame on the kid. And Kim gives no nod to any of his power players now that they could use against each other. Whatever comes, Kim’s washed his hands of his regime upon his death. He’s given his young relative the kiss of death.

maverick muse on June 2, 2009 at 10:20 AM

But will he rule with empathy?

mankai on June 2, 2009 at 10:21 AM

I think the Magic Eight Ball has a better accuracy rating when it comes to predicting leadership succession in Marxist-Leninist dictatorships.

Skandia Recluse on June 2, 2009 at 10:22 AM

Is there any sense of whether the generals would be an improvement over Kim or a frying pan to the fire scenario?

msmveritas on June 2, 2009 at 10:23 AM

MADtv has the funniest video ridiculing Crazy Kim.

maverick muse on June 2, 2009 at 10:23 AM

So Hillary is winging her way to Pyongyang with another autographed basketball?

Wethal on June 2, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Rather than wait for Jong-Un to build his own cult of personality and become too powerful to control, I’d bet that Kim’s generals already have plans to end the Kim dynasty after the second Dear Leader leaves.

Yeah, and how great of a job do you think the generals would do?

Outlander on June 2, 2009 at 10:31 AM

Kim promised to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes to Slick Willie. He had his fingers crossed. Now Obama is wanting Iran to have nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only if they promise not to use it for weaponry. Will Obama make them have their hands on the table so they want have their fingers crossed too? Liberalism is a progressive mental disorder that cannot be denied.

volsense on June 2, 2009 at 10:32 AM

Kim Dung Hill’s dictator-in-waiting search check list:
–midget
–Elvis hair
–dress in green pajamas
–low IQ
–evil
–insane

jgapinoy on June 2, 2009 at 10:35 AM

The new Hair to the throne….

soulsirkus on June 2, 2009 at 10:36 AM

jgapinoy on June 2, 2009 at 10:35 AM

You forgot:
– Cool “Harry Carey” sunglasses.

WashJeff on June 2, 2009 at 10:39 AM

The new Hair to the throne….

soulsirkus on June 2, 2009 at 10:36 AM

Blago?

WashJeff on June 2, 2009 at 10:39 AM

MADtv has the funniest video ridiculing Crazy Kim.

maverick muse on June 2, 2009 at 10:23 AM

I watched the whole clip. What ridicule?

Shy Guy on June 2, 2009 at 10:41 AM

The surprise is he picked Michelle Obama. In NoKo land there is a myth of a woman with massive arms who saves the nation. Michelle is that woman.

Mr. Joe on June 2, 2009 at 10:43 AM

I believe a Latina would have been the better pick.

mankai on June 2, 2009 at 10:48 AM

I watched the whole clip. What ridicule?

Shy Guy on June 2, 2009 at 10:41 A

M

That he was nothing but a horndog.

Blake on June 2, 2009 at 10:54 AM

Now, though, Obama has competition for the Most Clueless Executive.

Hey, Dear Leaders have to stick together.

Most communist countries like to throw in the word “democratic”, even though they are the antithesis of it. Dunno if it’s just a sick joke, or part of some plot to distort the word “democratic” beyond all semblance of reality. And now it appears that the Kims are doing the same thing to “republic.” I just wonder if The One is taking notes on this.

Seriously, I think the chain of command is simply humoring a stroke ridden old man. Once he gets too weak, some general will step forward to act as “regent” while L’il Kim is incapacitated and Boy Kim is “groomed” (i.e., will meet with an unfortunate accident).

The question is: are there going to be competing factions for control of NoKo, or will the military all fall in line behind the new guy.

rbj on June 2, 2009 at 10:54 AM

“It had long been realized that the only secure basis for oligarchy is collectivism. Wealth and privilege are most easily defended when they are possessed jointly. The so-called ‘abolition of private property’ meant in effect the concentration of property in far fewer hands than before…with the result, forseen and intended beforehand, that economic inequality has been made permanent.”

Beagle on June 2, 2009 at 10:55 AM

Well, at least there will be no shortage of riffs on the guy’s name.

Kim Jong-Un. You could really go to town.

J.E. Dyer on June 2, 2009 at 10:56 AM

The official name of North Korea, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, would become an anachronism. The “republic” would turn into a de facto monarchy, with Kim’s royal family holding power.

What do you mean, would? It is and has been for quite some time.

CP on June 2, 2009 at 10:57 AM

North Korean Dear Leader passes power to his son. About as surprising as the sun rising in the east this morning.

North Korea is starving to death, isolated from the world, a pariah nation that can look across the DMZ and see what might have been. The chain of command may already believe that they could do a better job running the joint than the current Kim, and a 26-year-old rookie won’t look like a good bet for them. Rather than wait for Jong-Un to build his own cult of personality and become too powerful to control, I’d bet that Kim’s generals already have plans to end the Kim dynasty after the second Dear Leader leaves.

Seems like a little wishful thinking here–does anyone in North Korea have the courage to oppose a Kim?

If the United States had a smart President, the CIA might be stirring the pot here, with the hope that a divided North Korea might be weaker, although we would have to keep an eye on what China does along the northwestern border.

If the United States had a smart President…we have Obama. Never mind.

Steve Z on June 2, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Ogabe will bow to him too.

Bishop on June 2, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Ogabe will bow to him too.

Bishop on June 2, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Makes me wonder if that’s something he learned from Marshal Davis in his formative years

heshtesh on June 2, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Kim Jong-Un. You could really go to town.

J.E. Dyer on June 2, 2009 at 10:56 AM

One could hope he is more un-Kim than the current Il.

kirkill on June 2, 2009 at 11:22 AM

This kid is not interested, not smart either. Maybe this is a good sign.

Schadenfreude on June 2, 2009 at 11:47 AM

“The Un-Kim”

It’s like a 7-Up commercial…

mojo on June 2, 2009 at 11:47 AM

Seems to me that the significance here is that Kim Jong Il has actually gone so far as to name a successor at all. It suggests he either thinks that he himself is not long for this world or believes he is losing control of the machinery that keeps him in power.

As a rule, dictators are loath to retire. Anointed successors not only have an incentive to speed their patrons’ passing but are also positioned to attract an aggressive following who are more than willing to assist. If KJI is willing to ignore that threat, and is bypassing his two eldest sons, he probably thinks his youngest is most likely to protect him if he is losing his grasp, perhaps literally, and wants to give Junior Jong III an early start on consolidating the power he will need to do it. His successor can fight the battles, while Dad spends the rest of his luxurious days entertaining himself.

JM Hanes on June 2, 2009 at 11:50 AM

Rather than wait for Jong-Un to build his own cult of personality and become too powerful to control, I’d bet that Kim’s generals already have plans to end the Kim dynasty after the second Dear Leader leaves.

Quite possible. But I’m thinking the current “Dear Leader” has positioned himself with enough powerful allies to all but ensure that his choice is protected.

In any event, North Korea doesn’t seem poised to become more like the South in the near future. The people certainly wouldn’t know what do if suddenly there were some semblance of freedom or actual democracy.

JetBoy on June 2, 2009 at 11:57 AM

Kim Il-Sung…Kim Jung Il…

Kim Jong-Un?

JetBoy on June 2, 2009 at 12:07 PM

JetBoy on June 2, 2009 at 12:07 PM

That pic seems to confirm the conventional wisdom…that kid won’t last 5 minutes after “Dear Daddy” assumes room tempurature.

AUINSC on June 2, 2009 at 12:16 PM

You are assuming that he’ll survive long enough to die after daddy reaches room temp.

Canadian Imperialist Running Dog on June 2, 2009 at 12:19 PM

Time for a sequel to “Team America: World Police”…

Khun Joe on June 2, 2009 at 12:35 PM


Who cares. If Iran can be a legitimate nuclear power, so can North Korea. I bet Obama can provide all sorts of economic assistance too.

Skywise on June 2, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Good point. And now that Obama has set himself up as the arbiter of who’s national nookular plans are 2 legit to quit, why cant NorKo’s program get the same impramatur from He Whose Name May Never Be Spoken Unless in Hope-n-Changey Reverance. Why not Syria, or Egypt, or Indonesia, or Venezuela or Jordan or Saudi Arabia or any other country?

Mike D. on June 2, 2009 at 12:36 PM

It is sad that his illegitimate son Barry Jong Il was to busy being the President, CEO, community organizer, lawyer to be the retarded leader for life.

sargentj on June 2, 2009 at 1:01 PM

Well, at least there will be no shortage of riffs on the guy’s name.

Kim Jong-Un. You could really go to town.

J.E. Dyer on June 2, 2009 at 10:56 AM

Judging by that picture, he’s the Uni-jonger.

James on June 2, 2009 at 1:11 PM

Una-jonger, even.

James on June 2, 2009 at 1:12 PM

If he has any brains, the first thing he would do would be to execute all of his generals and promote others to the newly vacated position…then he’d have a wheel to steer.

I think I missed my calling…it seems I have a knack for this diabolical monarch thing.

beefytee on June 2, 2009 at 1:24 PM

North Korea’s ailing leader has chosen his youngest son — who is just 26, attended a Swiss boarding school and reportedly admires basketball great Michael Jordan

Madeline Albright doesn’t seem all that stupid now does she?!!!

- The Cat

MirCat on June 2, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Ed: Kim Jong-Un has no real power base, which is why Kim Jong-Il let the military have its field day with missile and nuclear-weapons tests.

I’ve been thinking this myself, which means that all the pundits who are asking what Kim is up to should instead be asking who the players (generals) are and how far each will push his ambitions.

Ed: Rather than wait for Jong-Un to build his own cult of personality and become too powerful to control, I’d bet that Kim’s generals already have plans to end the Kim dynasty after the second Dear Leader leaves.

That would reduce whatever legitimacy they can claim in world affairs, and reduce the tolerance of China toward them. China does not want trouble on its border; it wants a client state that cannot act, but cannot be attacked. The generals would probably prefer to have a truly powerless figurehead. If Kim Jong Il is out of his league in dealing with the generals, his son certainly will be.

JM Hanes: Seems to me that the significance here is that Kim Jong Il has actually gone so far as to name a successor at all. It suggests he either thinks that he himself is not long for this world or believes he is losing control of the machinery that keeps him in power.

I read it as the latter: with a secure succession, the generals will be less likely to plot against him. But Kim studied at the knee of the elder Kim (Il Song); his son only studied at the knee of Kim Jong Il–if he studied at all. That may be a critical difference.

njcommuter on June 2, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Your guess on what will happen next is mine, too.

AnninCA on June 2, 2009 at 3:16 PM

Mini Kim-ill me!

canopfor on June 2, 2009 at 4:28 PM

I’d bet that Kim’s generals already have plans to end the Kim dynasty after the second Dear Leader leaves.

……and then what?

ThePrez on June 2, 2009 at 6:24 PM