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North Korea succession watch: A new contender?

In this edition: monkey wrenches, a reunification tax, and another semi-official North Korean Twitter account. Lots of news this morning from the Korean peninsula. To kick things off, a top North Korean defense official may become the monkey wrench upsetting Kim Jong-Il’s succession saga, the Washington Post reports. Why? It is Jang, the 64-year-old vice chairman ...

KNS/AFP/Getty Images
KNS/AFP/Getty Images

In this edition: monkey wrenches, a reunification tax, and another semi-official North Korean Twitter account.

Lots of news this morning from the Korean peninsula. To kick things off, a top North Korean defense official may become the monkey wrench upsetting Kim Jong-Il’s succession saga, the Washington Post reports. Why?

It is Jang, the 64-year-old vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, who has emerged as a third figure in any succession. There are other high-level leaders in North Korea, but no one else holds comparable clout. And no one else has been given more trust: put in a position in which he could serve as a mentor to Kim Jong Eun or attempt to seize power for himself once Kim Jong Il passes from the scene, at a time when North Korea’s starving population increasingly doubts whether the Kim way is the best way. 

All things considered, this isn’t a revelation so much as a rephrasing of what we already know: that Kim Jong Un is young and inexperienced, and that he’ll be subject to considerable pressure to act tough if (when?) he takes over from his father. Worth a look for those readers seeking a primer on North Korean internal politics.

Second, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak floated a proposal yesterday to reunify North and South — and that he’d levy a tax to pay for it. The suggestion is a surprising one, given Lee’s historically hawkish stance toward his northern neighbor (and the recent fraying of relations following the Cheonan incident at sea). Lee probably knows his counterpart in Pyongyang would never accept the offer, which makes it somewhat of an empty gesture. Does that mean that Lee’s move is part of a broader domestic political strategy? If so, are South Korean dreams of unification enough to overpower distaste for a new tax?

Lastly, North Korea’s PR folks are reportedly hard at work on socal media with the new Twitter account @uriminzok:

The first message was posted to the account on Aug. 12 and declared (in Korean) "The Web site ‘Our Nation’ is on Twitter."

It was followed by three messages pointing to important documents: a 1997 essay written by defacto leader Kim Jong Il on reunification, the North-South Joint Declaration of June 15, 2000, and the declaration issued after the North-South summit of Oct. 4, 2007. Subsequent updates have pointed to recent news articles.

 

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