North Korean official confirms Kim Jong Un in line to lead nation after father

Friday, October 8, 2010

NKorean official confirms Kim Jong Un as leader

PYONGYANG, North Korea — A top North Korean official confirmed Friday to broadcaster APTN that Kim Jong Il’s youngest son will succeed him as the next leader of the reclusive communist nation.

In the first public confirmation of the succession plan, Yang Hyong Sop, a top official in North Korea’s ruling party, referred to Kim Jong Un as “the young general” during an exclusive interview with APTN.

Yang, who was asked about the significance of Sunday’s 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party, the re-election of Kim Jong Il as general secretary of the party at a conference last week and Kim Jong Un’s promotion to four-star general, said the nation’s people were honored to serve the younger Kim as their leader.

Kim Jong Un would be the third successive generation of his family to lead of the nation of 24 million. His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founded the nation in 1948 on policy of self-reliance called “juche” and built a cult of personality around himself and his son, Kim Jong Il.

“Our people take pride in the fact that they are blessed with great leaders from generation to generation,” Yang said.

“Our people are honored to serve the great President Kim Il Sung and the great leader Kim Jong Il,” he added. “Now we also have the honor of serving young Gen. Kim Jong Un.”

Yang is a member of the political bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it remains to be seen whether a change of leadership would lead to a change in the regime’s behavior. Gates spoke at a Pentagon press conference with his South Korean counterpart Kim Tae-young after the two had the latest in a series of meetings.

Kim Jong Un had been virtually unknown outside North Korea before he made his public debut last week, when he was promoted to four-star general and vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s central military commission. That backed up analyst speculation that he had been chosen to succeed his ailing father as eventual ruler of the impoverished authoritarian regime, which pursues active nuclear and missile programs.

The world got its first real glimpse of Kim Jong Un last week when his photo was published in state media and he was shown on television at the Workers’ Party convention, the country’s most significant political gathering in 30 years. Yang’s comments are the first public confirmation that Kim Jong Un will eventually take over as leader.

Kim Jong Il took over as leader after his father died in 1994 in what was the communist world’s first hereditary transfer of power.

North Korea began three days of celebrations Friday marking the 65th anniversary of the party’s foundation. The ceremonies started in the evening with a fireworks display in Pyongyang and are expected to culminate in a massive military parade in the city’s Kim Il Sung Square on Sunday.

The fireworks show was attended by senior officials including Kim Yong Nam, president of North Korea’s parliament, and Jang Song Thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, according to APTN footage.

North Korean authorities have said that the celebration for this year’s anniversary will be the largest ever staged in the country.

“What I can tell you is that comrade Kim Jong Il and comrade Kim Jong Un will lead us to victory with their wise guidance, and our people are well aware of the significance of the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea,” Yang also said in the interview.

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