Prominent sources in Korea say North Korea is in the midst of a major leadership shakeup.
The notoriously tight-lipped totalitarian regime isn’t unsurprisingly mute on the matter, but one well-connected South Korean official says dictator Kim Jong Un is in a coma and his sister is running the show behind the scenes. A notorious ham, Mr. Kim has been noticeably camera shy this year and he even disappeared completely for several weeks earlier in the year.
Some members of the intelligence community believe Mr. Kim’s disappeared to undergo and recover from open-heart surgery. However, North Korea never provided an official explanation for his absence, and a South Korean government official told Fox News that “our government believes” there wasn’t any indication of a medical procedure taking place.
The sudden change in his public appearance scheduled fueled speculation about the leader’s possibly failing health, but the North Korean propaganda media machine has been working overtime to ensure everyone knows that their Supreme Leader is in tip-top shape. He made a few token appearances after his several-weeklong absence and, although he seemed to be leaning especially hard on his walking stick, he seemed to be healthy, so the rumors were temporarily put to rest.
However, just a few months later, the North Korean leader disappeared from the public eye again, but this time more credible evidence is emerging that indicates the dictator’s health is failing. A well-connected South Korean named Chang Soon-min, who was a former aide to deceased South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, says he believes the North Korean leader has become seriously ill but still breathing. “I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not ended,” he told South Korean media.
North Korea is a family business, so Mr. Chang suspects Mr. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-Jung, will take the helm while he is out of action. Ms. Kim has become more active in North Korean politics over the past few years, and she seems to be emerging as the favorite to succeed Mr. Kim. Mr. Kim has at least one legitimate daughter but, at just seven years old, it’s a little too early for her to take the wheel.
According to Mr. Chang, Ms. Kim is filling the gaps while big bro is out of commission, but her position atop the notoriously ruthless authoritarian regime is anything but assured. “A complete succession structure has not been formed,” said Mr. Chang, “so Kim Yo-jong is being brought to the fore as the vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period.”
For now, however, South Korean intelligence believes Ms. Kim has become North Korea’s “de-facto second-in-command”. During a closed-door meeting with legislators, South Korean intelligence officials believe the power shift towards little sis could be a political maneuver to “relieve (Kim’s) stress from his reign and avert culpability in the event of policy failure.”
Although no formal succession plan is in place, it would make for some interesting political theater to see Ms. Kim officially take over as supreme leader. Ms. Kim would become the first female Supreme Leader in North Korea’s notoriously misogynistic culture, and she would be one of the only female totalitarian leaders in recent memories.
However, the West can’t count out Mr. Kim just yet. He’s known to play by his own rules, so for all we know, he could be on a beach somewhere sipping margaritas. He’s also an avid follower of Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin, who used to play similar mind games in order to test the loyalty of his underlings and keep them on their toes. However, he can’t hide forever if he’s still alive, so something’s gotta give in this East Asian drama.