Speculation on the wellbeing of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un resurfaced over the weekend, prompting a renewed death watch on Kim, and concerns that a power transition could be in the works. It began with reports from South Korean intelligence last week that Kim Jong Un had delegated some power and authority to his sister Kim Yo Jong. The reports strengthened the notion that Un’s sister is being groomed to succeed him at some point by the end of the year. Then over the weekend Chang Song-min, a former aide to South Korea’s late president Kim Dae-jung made the bold allegation that Kim is in a coma and his sister is in fact preparing to take full control of the government. Chang claims that a full succession of power has not yet been completed and Kim Yo Jong is being positioned to prevent a vacuum from forming when Kim Jong Un finally expires.
Back in April Kim’s health condition was in question following an extended period of him not being seen in public. In the absence of hard information speculation soared. Rumors of Kim having suffered a heart attack, stroke, or even COVID popped up daily from many ‘reliable sources.’ There was even concern he had died, leaving North Korea rudderless. Finally, Kim was seen in public, speculation disappeared, and the world moved on.
A few months later and here we are again. On the verge of another episode of North Korean Soap Opera.
To be fair, there is something going on in the North. The problem is that when it comes to North Korea’s internal politics there are very few analysts, and experts able to accurately read the tea leaves.