Who Could Replace North Korea's Kim Jong-un?
The news of Kim Jong-un's alleged death circulated online this weekend. Based on reports from Chinese and Japanese outlets, TMZ wrote that the North Korean leader "reportedly died, or is on his death bed with no hope for recuperation."
South Korea, however, says that Kim Jong-un is very much "alive and well." In fact, the special advisor to the South Korean President Moon Chung-in says he's been staying in a resort town located in the country's east coast.
Still, it makes one wonder: Who will take over North Korea if Kim Jong-un does kick the bucket? Read on for the Kim dynasty's—should we say—line of succession.
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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s powerful younger sister Kim Yo-jong was all smiles as she met with South Korean officials upon touching down in South Korea on Friday. Striding confidently through Incheon Airport, Kim Yo-jong presented a contrasting image to the rigidity of the reclusive North Korean regime. South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myung-kyun met with Kim Yo-jong in a special guest room at the airport. Kim Yo-jong, who wears multiple hats in the North Korean government, arrived here on a private jet as part of a high-level government delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. To read more, follow the link in our profile. (Photos: Yonhap)
The top candidate for Kim Jong-un's position is his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong. Currently, she attends official engagements as a representative and is a vice director for North Korea's propaganda. According to insider information, the siblings have a close bond since they studied together in Switzerland. While many sources refer to her as the heir presumptive, it's still unclear whether North Koreans can come to accept a woman as their supreme leader.
Being the direct son of the founder of North Korea Kim Il-sung, Kim Pyong-il definitely has a lot of reasons to be on this list. Aside from his birthright, he also has over 40 years of experience as a foreign diplomat. Experts, however, point to the fact that Kim Pyong-il just retired last year. Not to mention, he has troubled relations with Pyongyang as he's been considered a threat to the government.
Another highly probable prospect is North Korean politician and military official Choe Ryong-hae. Currently, the 70-year-old serves as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and first vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission. Technically speaking, he's North Korea's second in rank, so it figures that he could be next in line. But, he would probably just be a temporary replacement—until Kim Jong-un's children come of age.
South Korean sources speculate that Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju have at least one to three children. The pair have been extremely secretive but Dennis Rodman, a friend of Kim Jong-un, let it slip that Ri Sol-ju had given birth to a second child named Ju-ae in 2013.