Why Fresh Leadership in North Korea Won’t Change Anything
With all the contradictory reports about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un bombarding the media right now and the lack of transparency from the country’s regime in general, it is difficult to ascertain the truth about the state of the dictator’s well-being.
Conflicting Reports about Kim Jong-un’s Health
According to The Sun, Kim is in a coma as North Korea prepares to hand power to his sister, Kim Yo-jong. Rumors about Kim’s health have been circulating since April, with some reports suggesting that he is in a “vegetative state” following a botched heart operation.
Although late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung consistently insisted that the rogue state is hiding the truth about their leader’s health, it has been confirmed by South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), that Kim has already gradually started to transfer authority to his 33-year-old sister, with the North Korean leader determining events in the background.
Kim’s Departure Won’t Change Anything
These rumors have been triggered by the North Korean leader’s lack of public appearances this year, though North Korea News reported last week that Kim presided over a plenary meeting of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party on August 19 where members discussed “an issue of crucial significance.”
Regardless of whether Kim is in good health or not, a leadership change is not the answer to North Korea’s growing problems. Even if Kim Yo-jong is starting to enjoy more responsibility while her brother supposedly remains in critical condition, her consolidation of power will represent business as usual for the country’s regime.
Kim Yo-jong Will Also Likely Fail to Get a Nuclear Deal with the US
Considering US President Donald Trump failed to make any progress with Kim in persuading North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, Kim Yo-jong would almost definitely be an even bigger obstacle for the US’s ambitions in the Korean peninsular.
In 2017, the dictator’s sister was made a member of the politburo, the Workers’ Party’s senior ruling committee, which provided her with greater power over state security.
However, Kim Yo-jong was then demoted in 2019 after she was held responsible for the failure of the Hanoi Summit, which saw Trump scrap denuclearization talks. If Kim’s sister was ineffective at reaching progress with the US as a member of the politburo, she would be even worse at this task if she became North Korea’s leader.
Kim Yo-jong’s Remarkable Comeback
Despite her past demotion, Kim Yo-jong has had a rapid return to favor after falling out of grace with her brother. Kim’s sister was elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly as a representative for Killimgil in 2019.
In April 2020, she was reinstated to the Workers’ Party’s politburo.
Since becoming a prominent figure in Pyongyang again, Yo-jong has taunted neighboring South Korea. In July, she made her first public statement, referring to Seoul as a “frightened dog barking” after the South Korean Government protested about the North’s live-fire military exercise. While her brother has made strides with the South, these actions prove that a North Korean regime led by Kim’s sister would reverse progress both sides of the Korean peninsular have made in recent years.
The US and South Korea Should Worry About Kim Yo-jong
Kim Yo-jong has a talent for transforming her political fortunes, but because she is an influential member of the Workers’ Party and Kim Jong-un’s sibling, there will be no pragmatic solutions to North Korea’s problems, which include food shortages, the economic impact of the coronavirus and flooding. There is no evidence to suggest that her beliefs are any different to her brother’s, which means that if Kim does have to resign, then Pyongyang will miss out on an opportunity to introduce any genuine changes.
As soon as the North Korean leader became ill, he was never likely to let his grip over his country’s regime loosen. This is why his sister is the best person to potentially succeed him as their ideological outlooks are practically the same. But the US and South Korea should worry about Kim Yo-jong becoming North Korea’s leader, as she could thwart all the progress Washington and Seoul have made to try and normalize relations with Pyongyang.