As mystery over North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s health continued to deepen, many questions have been raised about his potential successor.
While political analysts and onlookers first turned to Un’s sister as next in line, yet another face has now emerged as the potential future ruler of North Korea – Jong-un’s uncle Kim Pyong Il.
Though relegated to the background for decades, Kim Pyong Il has always been considered a serious contender to the throne due to his lineage.
Kim Pyong Il:
Kim Pyong Il is Kim Jong-un’s paternal uncle and the last known son of former premier and founder of North Korea Kim Il Sung to survive. Il, who is 65, was exiled abroad for about four decades after losing to Il Sun’s second son and Jong-un’s father Kim Jong Il, who ruled North Korea after his father’s death in 1994 till 2011. Jong-un took over leadership after the demise of the former.
Pyong il was sent on diplomatic exile from 1979 onward after Jong-il convinced their father Kim il Sung that he was ineligible for ruling, thanks to his “womanising” reputation, IB Times reported.
During Il’s stay abroad, he worked in diplomatic positions in several countries where North Korea has interests including Poland, Hungary, Finland, Bulgaria, and Czech Republic. He only returned to Pyongyang last year.
Why is he important?
Despite the widespread buzz around Jong-un’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong, the truth remains that patriarchal and conservative society and male-dominated politics in North Korea would not allow a woman to assume the role of the supreme leader.
Even though Yo-jong has reportedly been by Jong-un’s side ever since his mysterious sickness and has allegedly been gaining power and political traction in Korea, it is unlikely for North Korean leadership to choose a woman, despite her being from the “Baekdu bloodline,” or the dictator’s family.
As per a report in Bloomberg, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to UK, Thae Yong Ho, said that the 32-year-old Yo-jong may not get the role due to her gender and her age.
He said that with Yo-jung at the helm, there will be chaos amid the top leadership as well as the country. “The problem is that a Kim Yo Jong-led North Korea is unlikely to be sustainable,” he told Bloomberg.
Relations with Jong-un:
Pyong Il, the son of Il Sung and his secretary Kim Song Ae, has never been on good terms with his half brother Jong-il or his successor Kim Jong-un.
In December 2013, Jong-un had Pyong-il’s sister’s husband Gen Chang sung Taek executed as punishment for alleged counter-revolutionary activities.
According to reports, Pyon Il, who returned to Pyongyang last November after his retirement from office, has been in house arrest since.
Some feel that the fact that his name is name could be a testimony to North Korea’s negative attitudes regarding appointing women to power.