North Korean leader Kim Jong Il appears increasingly concerned about internal threats to his regime as he prepares to hand over power to his son, a South Korean lawmaker said.
|Kim Jong Il
Kim has boosted security around his residences throughout the country, deploying more weapons in the areas, since pro- democracy uprisings erupted in the Middle East, said Kwon Young Se, chairman of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee. The South Korean military and civic groups have used balloons to drop leaflets into North Korea carrying news of Middle East unrest.
“Kim must be fearful of insurrection, especially at a time when his heir remains so young,” Kwon of the ruling Grand National Party, said yesterday in an interview in Seoul, citing a report by the National Intelligence Service. “It is questionable if his son, who is so young and inexperienced, can retain the same kind of control he exerted.”
Kim Jong Un, believed to be 27 or 28, was appointed in September to the second-highest military post in the Workers’ Party, paving the way for him to become North Korea’s next leader. While Kim Jong Il, 69, appears to have recovered from a 2008 stroke, his age, drinking and smoking, and history of illness suggest he “may not survive for that long,” said Kwon.
“Any conflict within the leadership group could be a dangerous sign of a regime collapse,” said Kwon, a third-term lawmaker. “The regime could become unstable during the power transition, with the new forces behind Kim Jong Un clashing with the old forces of Kim Jong Il.”
Little is known about Kim Jong Un, who was publicly mentioned by the state media for the first time in September. North Korea has been under dynastic rule by the Kim family for nearly 63 years since it was founded.
North Korea threatened on Feb. 27 to fire at locations in South Korea where balloons carrying leaflets have been released. Kim’s regime shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23 in an attack that killed four people.
The regime’s grip on the military and the difficulties the North Korean people would face in organizing a revolt make popular uprisings like those that toppled the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents unlikely, said Kwon. North Koreans don’t have access to the Internet, mobile phones and social networks that helped uprisings in the Middle East, he said.
The government in Pyongyang is “increasing control over its society to block the influx of outside information,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan told foreign diplomats in Seoul on March 3, without elaborating.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency hasn’t reported on the Middle East protests. In North Korea, radios are pre-tuned to government programs and owning computers without permission is forbidden, according to a 2010 report by the United Nations.
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