A historic Worker's Party Conference has kicked off in Pyongyang with the appointment of Kim Jong-un and re-election of Kim Jong-il. The move comes as no surprise for N Koreans both above and below the 38th parallel.
Unconfirmed picture of North Korean heir-apparent Kim Jong-un (left) and leader Kim Jong-il (right)
Park Gun Ha knows a little something about the North Korean Worker’s Party – he was once a member before defecting to South Korea in 2005 and now belongs to an association of formerly high-ranking refugees.
He told Deutsche Welle that even though most North Koreans back home probably did not even Kim Jong-un’s name until Tuesday, they will probably not be surprised that he is on his way to taking over from his father eventually.
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However, Park also pointed out that the question of who the next leader will be is not a top concern for most North Koreans. "North Koreans lost hope when Kim Jong-il took over and the economy went bad,” he explained. "Now they don’t really care about who the successor is. They are much more concerned with how they will survive."
He said that the Pyongyang regime would justify the eventual succession of Kim Jong-un by stressing his plans to reform the economy. "That’s the only way the North Korean people will support him."
Government has created a flawless CV for Kim Jong-un
Park doubted that either Kim Jong-un or his aunt Kim Kyoung Hee, who was also appointed as a general on Tuesday, had any real experience in the North Korean military.
Lee Sae Yul, the secretary general of the North Korea Liberation Front, an organization in Seoul made up of former North Korean soldiers agreed. "Current soldiers in the North Korean army would be shocked if they found out about this inexperience but that’s unlikely to happen."
"The government there has flawlessly created Kim Jong-un’s education and military experience. It would be impossible for any one to find out the truth."
Members of the ruling Worker's Party gather at Pyongyang station on their way to the party conference
Disseminating the truth across the border
Lee's organization is trying to change the fact that North Koreans do not know the truth by sending DVDs and other media across the border with information about Kim Jong-il’s regime and about life outside of North Korea. Lee hopes that this will help more and more North Koreans to question their government and defect.
Kim Jong-il was confirmed as eventual successor to his father at the last major party meeting in 1980
However, North Korea Liberation Front’s director Kim Myoung Ha said that for now, there was not much ordinary North Koreans could do to express the dissatisfaction with the leadership.
"Things will be the same when Kim Jong-un becomes leader," he said. "People will grow to hate the government. There’s not much they can do about it, but they will expect life there to get worse and worse."
He predicted that there would be few public displays of anger but hostility toward the new leader would boil under the surface.
Author: Jason Strother (Seoul)
Editor: Anne Thomas