Who would succeed Kim Jong-un and lead North Korea if he died? – The Sun

SPECULATION over North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s health has spread rapidly over the weekend after reports claimed he was in a grave condition.

It has raised questions about who will take over if he dies, with his sister appearing to be frontrunner.

The North Korean dictator is said to be in fragile health after botched heart surgery, reigniting discussion over who would take over if he died.

Mr Kim has one sister, Kim Yo-jong, believed to be 31, who already has a lot of influence in the secretive state, but analysts say that military officials could also take charge.

The speculation started after Mr Kim didn’t show up at events to celebrate the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father – and his grandfather – Kim Il-sung on April 15.

Earlier this week, The Daily NK, a South Korean newspaper, reported that the dictator was recovering after surgery on April 12.

The newspaper also said that the health of Mr Kim, who is thought to be 37 or 38, has collapsed since the summer because of obesity and smoking.

YOUNGER SISTER

Kim Jong-un’s younger sister is seen as one of Mr Kim’s closest advisers, and was recently elevated to North Korea’s ruling body, the politburo.

Kim Yo-jong has recently been seen at the leader’s side during international summits, and travelled to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

She studied alongside her brother in Switzerland between 1996 and 2000, and it is believed she then went on to further education at the Kim Il-sung Military University.

She is married to Choe Song, the son of top North Korean politician Choe Ryong-hae, and has at least one child born in May 2015.

In a sign of what her leadership could be like, she made a rare public statement earlier this year calling South Korea a “frightened barking dog.”

Referring to South Korea’s criticism of the North’s weapons testing, it was the first time the dictator’s sister had issued a statement in her name.

Despite the power she wields, however, it remains to be seen whether, as a woman, she would be allowed to take the top job.

POWERFUL OFFICIALS

There is also a small group of officials who could take the reins from Mr Kim.

One is Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, 70, who was promoted to president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly last year – meaning he is technically the country’s head of state.

The senior official has served in North Korea’s ruling party for decades, and in 2019, was sanctioned by the US for human rights abuses.

Another elite official is Pak Pong Ju, who is a member of the politburo like Mr Kim’s sister.

He used to be North Korea’s head of state, and tried to revive the country’s economy by opening up its market.

Mr Pak became premier for the first time in 2004 under Mr Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, and for the second time in 2013.

He currently serves as the vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission.

Finally, Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of the ruling party, has international connections and would likely be a more measured leader.

He previously worked as North Korea’s intelligence chief, and lead the denuclearisation talks with the United States.

In May 2018, he flew to New York for talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about stopping nuclear testing in the country, and also travelled to the White House for talks with President Trump.

Asked this morning about reports on Kim Jong-un's health, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The reports are uncorroborated. I’ve seen the international media reports but we don’t have any verified state of play on that yet.”

He told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Obviously we’re following that very carefully, those reports.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, US President Donald Trump wished the North Korean leader well: “I can only say this: I wish him well… I just hope he’s doing fine.”

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