N. Korea rejoices, dynasty talk swirls
Kim’s son may be named successor at pivotal meeting
SEOUL — North Korea celebrated its 62d anniversary yesterday with odes to supreme leader Kim Jong Il and pilgrimages to his late father’s statue amid hints that a political meeting believed aimed at promoting his son as successor is imminent.
There is widespread speculation that Kim will use the conference to give his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, a key Workers’ Party position as part of plans to extend the family dynasty to a third generation.
Kim Jong Il, known as the “Dear Leader’’ in North Korea’s cult of personality, took over leadership after his father, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, died of heart failure in 1994 — communism’s first hereditary transfer of power.
Kim, 68, may have wanted to name his successor in 2012, the centenary of his father’s birth. But a reported stroke in 2008 may have sped up the process, with his little-known third son emerging as the likely heir. Kim is also said be suffering from diabetes and a kidney ailment.
State media reported Monday that Workers’ Party delegates were gathering in Pyongyang to elect new leaders in what would be North Korea’s first major political conference in 30 years.
Since then, there has been no official confirmation that the meeting had begun. North Korea watchers say it may have been postponed due to Kim’s health problems or recent flooding that disrupted transportation.
However, a senior official at a pro-Pyongyang association in Tokyo said Wednesday the meeting would take place “in a few days.’’
“The leadership and function of the Workers’ Party would be further strengthened through this historic’’ conference, Ho Jong Man, chief vice chairman of the Central Standing Committee of Korean Residents in Japan, said at a reception.
The association has close ties with Pyongyang, though it does not work for the North Korean government.
A Pyongyang resident hinted to broadcaster APTN that the conference had not yet started.
“We are significantly commemorating the 62d anniversary . . . ahead of the meeting of Workers’ Party representatives,’’ Ri Pyong Song told APTN.
Ri was among the legions of North Koreans who paid their respects to Kim Il Sung at the hillside spot where a giant statue of the country’s founder, known as the “Great Leader,’’ overlooks Pyongyang.
Soldiers in uniforms and neatly dressed citizens, some wearing traditional Korean clothes, offered bouquets of flowers and bowed before the statue, APTN footage showed.
North Korea also held dancing parties for young people in Pyongyang and other areas across the country as part of the anniversary celebrations, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
State TV broadcast patriotic songs calling for loyalty to Kim Jong Il throughout yesterday, while the main Rodong Sinmun newspaper urged the North’s 24 million to unite behind Kim.
North Korea has launched a propaganda campaign promoting Kim Jong Un, including songs and poems praising the young man, South Korea’s spy agency said.
Little is known about him, including the exact year of his birth and what he looks like. He is believed to have studied in Switzerland during middle school and is thought to be in his 20s.
A former sushi chef for Kim wrote in a 2003 memoir that Jong Un, as a child, looked and acted just like his father, was competitive and aggressive, as well as a keen fan of American basketball.
Jong Un has two older brothers: Jong Chol, 29, and half brother Jong Nam, 39.
South Korean defense officials have said they are preparing for any situation that might arise if North Korea’s succession does not go smoothly.