Six months is a long time. However, it is not long enough for us to know whether the Kim Jong Eun regime will be characterized by the same levels of sole control as the Kim Jong Il regime was. As a Ministry of Unification official said yesterday, “Kim Jong Eun is attempting to reveal his political colors at the same time as maintaining the system using Kim Jong Il’s last instructions.”
Also yesterday, Professor Yoo Ho Yeol of Korea University added on the same topic, “Kim Jong Eun is maintaining his power by having the look of a leader and relying on Kim Jong Il’s last instructions to maintain the inertia of the system, but we can’t really say that such a passive succession to power has led to a new leadership being established.”
Notably, only four months have been required to ease Kim Jong Eun into the controlling positions in the Party, military and state apparatus. As such, he adroitely skipped the full 20 to 30 years of succession building and infighting that Kim Jong Il went through. Of course, it is noticeable that the younger man gained the loyalty of cadres primarily by riding on the coattails of his father.
The same Ministry of Unification official commented on this, “[Today’s North Korean officials] experienced the despair of ‘sectarianism’ and ‘abuse of power’ during 20 to 30 years of the Kim Jong Il era. Kim Jong Eun is young and has no experience, but due to the system’s characteristics, which do not allow revolt, we can say that Kim Jong Eun’s power is stable.”
However, since rule is basically being achieved on the back of Kim Jong Il’s ruling instructions and via attempts to mimic Kim Il Sung, it is hard to say that a sole Kim Jong Eun power system has been established.
So, Kim must focus on trying to earn some public respect for himself. This is most critical in Pyongyang. Thus, he has emphasized the need to improve the ‘people’s livelihoods’ and food production in multiple public speeches and statements. He has visited amusement parks, department stores, nurseries and ten other ‘public facilities’. In his April 15th speech he emphasized that the people should not have to tighten their belts any longer.
According to the official, “For the time being he will focus on stabilizing the idolization and leadership processes. However, everything is happening the way it did during the times of Kim Jong Il, so reform and opening and innovative policy changes seem unlikely.”
Professor Yoo said, “He needs to cultivate his domination of state affairs and stabilize the people’s livelihoods. So, while putting Kim Jong Il’s last instructions to the forefront he will focus on loyalty competitions and idolization.”