North Korea's increasing aggression appears puzzling. On the surface, it seems Kim Jong-Il has nothing to gain except attention. However, a pattern is forming that indicates that the provocations are tied to the succession process as Kim Jong-Il prepares to hand power over to his third son, Kim Jong-Un.
It is understandable why Kim Jong-Il is fearful about the fate of the regime when he passes. Over half of the population is now getting news from outside the country and the regime has had to form new police units in the wake of unprecedented outcries against the government. The regime had to actually back down because of the reaction of the people to plans to issue a new currency and ban old bank notes and foreign currency. The uneasiness of the regime was plain for all to see when it said it would destroy any loudspeakers broadcasting in from the South.
The regime recognizes that the population’s awakening to their harsh humanitarian situation could jeopardize the succession process. The regime is executing high-level officials and according to Professor Toshimitsu Shigemura, an expert on North Korea at Waseda University, this is because of an internal struggle in the regime. He says that about 1,000 officials have been arrested and 20 to 30 have been executed.
Victor Fic is a Seoul-based special correspondent for economics and defense issues for Asia-Pacific Business and Technology Review and other publications, told FrontPage that Kim Jong-Un faces some obstacles.
“The young man lacks any legitimacy. He is generations removed from the Kim Il-Sung generation that claimed to defeat Imperial Japan and founded North Korea in 1948. Yes, Kim Jong-Il was born afterward, but he was son of the ‘living god,’ Kim Il-Sung,” Fic said.
Fic also said that Kim Jong-Il led the regime’s propaganda efforts in the late 1960s and a personality cult was created for him. Kim Jong-Un does not have that and “has no experience at all.”
Kim Jong-Un faces two additional obstacles according to Fic.
“The Confucian values that have guided Koreans for centuries mandate that power should pass to Kim Jong-Il’s oldest son, Kim Young-nam. However, Kim Jong-Il deems him ‘too effeminate,’” he said. He added that he also questions whether the “geriatric officer class will take orders from a visibly younger man.”