SEOUL, January 11. /TASS/. Kim Jong-un’s decision to become General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea may be motivated by a desire to distance himself from the legacy of his father and previous DPRK leader Kim Jong-il, Professor Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in South Korea and a Valdai International Discussion Club expert told TASS.
According to the expert, the North Korean state system has a specific feature that is very important for propaganda. "The fact is that when Kim Jong-il’s father, Kim Il-sung, died, the post of president of the DPRK was left to him, thereby making him the ‘eternal president.’ Similarly, when Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, died, he was declared Eternal General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea. Moreover, his ‘eternity’ was mentioned more than once," he noted.
Lankov noted in particular that, in September 2020, a large propaganda article had appeared in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, which "said how great Kim Jong-un was, and his wise decision to appoint Kim Jong-il Eternal General Secretary was mentioned among the signs of his greatness."
"Thus, by his unexpected decision, Kim Jong-un actually deals a severe blow to his own father, which is not the most reasonable act in the hereditary system. North Koreans had been told for a long time that they had Eternal President Kim Il-sung, Eternal General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea Kim Jong-il and the current leader who has a separate title. However, all of a sudden, that beautiful scheme, which had existed for 25 years, collapsed for no apparent reason," Lankov stressed.
At the same time, according to the expert, Kim Jong-un’s "formal title" is not a matter of principle, since no one questions his leadership position.
"Kim Jong-un’s decision looks somewhat strange. Actually, it does not change anything, but it can be viewed as a certain challenge to his father’s legacy and a desire to distance himself from that legacy to some extent. It is more than likely that personal ambitions play a role there as well as the desire to raise his status from the ritual and protocol perspective," the expert said.
Kim Jong-un’s new official rank
On Monday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea held in Pyongyang had unanimously decided to elect Kim Jong-un General Secretary of the party. The party’s previous congress was held in May 2016. At that time, Chairman of the DPRK State Council Kim Jong-un was elected to the post of the party’s chairman. The documents from the 8th Congress published to date do not specify whether Kim Jong-un has retained that post after his election as General Secretary and whether that party post had been retained at all.