Just ahead of one of the biggest shows of military might in North Korean history, a top Workers' Party official is saying in so many words what was already clear: Kim Jong-un will succeed his father as leader of North Korea.
Yang Hyong-sop, a member of the political bureau of the Workers’ Party, told the Associated Press Television in Pyongyang that “our people take pride in the fact that they are blessed with great leaders from generation to generation."
His “generation-to-generation” comment was a reference to the ruling North Korean dynasty that began with the rule of Kim Il-sung from the end of World War II until his death in 1994, has continued under Kim Il-sung’s son, Kim Jong-il, and is likely to go on under Kim Jong-un, believed to be 27 years old.
"Our people are honored to be led by the great president Kim Il-sung and the great general Kim Jong-il," Mr. Yang added. "Now we also have the honor of being led by General Kim Jong-un."
His words marked the first formal confirmation that Mr. Kim is in line to inherit power from his ailing father, Kim Jong-il. The interview was carried on South Korean TV networks along with reports of plans for the military parade on Sunday marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party.
Both father and son are likely to appear on the reviewing platform during the military exercises, says Kim Tae-woo, senior fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, as thousands of troops march behind such symbols of North Korean power as the missiles that it brandishes before the world.
“The parade will further confirm the succession and the policy,” he says. Noting that father and son had both inspected a military unit doing a live-fire exercise this week, he concludes “that means he’ll be standing side-by-side with his father at the parade.”
The parade, in which 20,000 troops are expected to participate, will mark another major step in Kim Jong-un’s emergence before North Korea and the world. Until photographs and video of him at a Sept. 28 Workers' Party conference were distributed late last week, few people had any idea what he looked like. An indicator of the son's rising status, the conference saw Kim Jong-un named vice chairman of the party’s newly formed military commission and a member of the party’s central committee.
100,000 people rehearsing
Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, quoted an unnamed source as saying North Korea was “putting all its strength into heightening the mood” for the anniversary. The source told Yonhap that 100,000 people were rehearsing a mass rally and a giant fireworks display was planned to mark the occasion.
The parade comes after weeks of military activity reported near Pyongyang in preparation for the parade. The same source was quoted by Yonhap as saying the parade would feature “scores of tanks, armored vehicles, and missiles.”
Kim Tae-woo believes Kim Jong-un’s emergence as heir to his father, who suffered a stroke in August 2008, means North Korea will heighten military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. “North Korea will have more motivation to do so,” he says. “They need outside tension to strengthen internal unity.”