Bear that in mind as you read Los Angeles Times Seoul correspondent John Glionna's piece on the brother-in-law of ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Jang Song-taek (장성택/張成澤; chang sŏngt'aek), whose daughter Jang Keum-song (장금성) committed suicide in Paris while studying there, reportedly when she refused to return to North Korea as ordered because of her unapproved love with somebody in Paris.
It starts thus:
He is an enigma from the world's most secretive state, a behind-the-scenes political operative known mostly as a trusted brother-in-law to North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il.Jang was the hardliner reportedly in charge of things after KJI had his stroke, and he supposedly "took the opportunity to crush any dissent."
But Jang Song Taek has recently emerged as a decisive player in the drama of who might succeed the ailing 67-year-old Kim in a country that remains defiant in the face of international pressure to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
Looking weak following a suspected stroke in August, Kim last week publicly anointed Jang as his second in charge, analysts say, naming him to the powerful National Defense Commission.
The article goes on into the usual topics of neo-Confucianism focus on blood ties, which would preclude Jang from becoming leader himself but would make him the perfect trustee to guide the Dear Leader's chosen son to power.
But, as Glionna points out, not everyone agrees on what Jang's elevation to the National Defense Commission means:
Pyongyang watchers are divided about the move's significance. Some say Jang could assume power if Kim dies or is incapacitated, while others insist he would merely become the regime's caretaker, ensuring an orderly succession of power to one of Kim's three sons.So I'm going to make a prediction or two. First, the Dear Leader's not going anywhere. Yeah, he probably had a stroke in August, but if he's up and walking around like he has, he's out of the woods. He has survived the stroke; having had a stroke makes it clear that you're at high risk for another stroke, but it's not like cancer where the same stroke might come back on you.
Frankly, I think people are too premature about that, talking about how weak he is, how emaciated, how he's got one foot in the grave. I don't think such people have a whole lot of experience with stroke survivors. The guy is walking around and talking and smiling. Kirk freakin' Douglas had a much more severe stroke at the age of eighty, and thirteen years later he's still around, at ninety-three. The picture above is from two years ago during a Reuters interview.
Diabetes is more likely to do the Dear Leader in, but he's got some of the best doctors constantly watching his care, so even that might remain under control. His father had a giant tumor on his neck and still managed to live to the age of eighty-two. If KJI lives that long, we'll still be dealing with him in 2023.
But I do think that the stroke may have made things more difficult or made him more tired, or possibly even gave him a new perspective on life, and those things might lead him to give up some or all of his power, especially if he can oversee a shift in power to his sons. His brother-in-law can help make that happen, although if KJI really is incapacitated, we know from Korean history how uncles and brothers and mothers can really screw things up for the whole country.
If he oversees a transfer of power while physically strong and cognitively aware, his chosen relative (his son or his brother-in-law) may be firmly in power for quite some time (not unlike, say, Raul Castro might be in Cuba). But if he's enervated or cognitively weakened, his chosen successor might find himself playing nothing more than the role of figurehead, while the military or the rubber stamp parliament vies for power to see who calls the shots. Though things will probably not get violent, there is a potential for bloodshed.
So there you have it: I predict KJI will be here for the long haul but he will try to get one of his sons in power with the help of his brother-in-law, who will remain loyal to KJI, especially if KJI stays strong. If not, Brother-in-law Jang may try to wrest some power for himself, but there could be a lot of intrigue in Pyongyang at that time.
Sound good? Bear in mind that I have been wrong about a lot of my boldest predictions (like Han Myŏngsuk becoming the next president). Kim Jong-il could become Kim Jong-keel tomorrow.
i'm not going to read your blog just yet because i got 2 lines in and it appeared you were going/based it on the information of an LA times journalist.ReplyDelete
as a born again k-blogger you have a great opportunity to separate yourself from the pack.
you can't tell me you are studying at university of hawaii which is one of the bet foreign universities for korean studies and you have to still base you blog posts on ignorant journalist when you have access to one of the best korean libraries outside of korea. if you want to write about this shit in a public sphere in a credible manner then at least get a basic grounding on current academic knowledge regarding the north korean governmental structure, develop some sort of rudimentary knowledge of its historical development in context, and then work on a blogpost that can put yo apart from the failed and failing english teacher type bloggers that predominate in the the kblogosphere, public health shit, whatever.
i'm starting to get the impression that if you pulled your finger out of you ass you could attempt an academic career focused on korea (being at UH is a good place to start) but you need to inculcate a learning culture that derives itself a little bit more reading of the academic literature and less of this kind of rudimentary journalist pieces and bounces off other blog posts
think of your future, please, you can thank me later.
i'm not going to read your blog just yet because i got 2 lines in and it appeared you were going/based it on the information of an LA times journalist.I'm not "going by" anything. A lot of what I do on this blog is report on or discuss what is out there, whether it's prominently out there (as in the LAT) or some hidden thing I uncovered.
It's the journalist in me, who competes with the academic in me.
We know little about what's going on in Pyongyang and so, sad as it is to say, speculations rule the day.
as a born again k-blogger you have a great opportunity to separate yourself from the pack.emily, please dispense with the personal references. There's a lot of nonsense that has been written about me that is not true; IOW, you do not know what you think you know. For starters, my name is not John and I am not a born-again.
The problem for me is that you write something that references me about something that is not factual and I leave it up, it looks like I'm acknowledging it as factual when in fact I'm tired of correcting people and/or I just choose to let things go because the tide is too high to be emptying the ocean with spoon.
you can't tell me you are studying at university of hawaii which is one of the bet foreign universities for korean studies and you have to still base you blog posts on ignorant journalist when you have access to one of the best korean libraries outside of korea.As for the rest of this, all I can say is that a blog is merely a blog. It is not an academic journal. I can come up with some gems that get cited and referenced by a whole lot of people (in fact, I have and I will), but mostly it is the day to day analysis of what's out there day to to day.
I'd have to hire even more blog minions if I wanted to do what you're suggesting, but I've got school and work and the remnants of a social life to contend with as well.
So maybe in the future there will be the occasional post you are recommending it, but it's simply not feasible for every post to be like that. Again, it's a blog, not an academic journal.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
emily, if you can't stay on topic and dispense with the personal stuff, then I'm going to delete comments. I don't know you and you don't know me, and this has me suspecting that you're here to cause trouble, not to discuss anything.ReplyDelete
i'm sorry, sometimes I go overboard. I appreciate you not deleting those comments you deem appropriate and i'll endeavor to stay on topic.ReplyDelete
emily, if you select "Email follow-up comments to [YOUR ADDRESS]" then you will get a copy of everything. Then if for some reason I delete it, you can find the original, edit it appropriately, and then resubmit.ReplyDelete
I reread your comments three times and could find only one specific criticism of the post itself in the opening paragraph of an incoherent string of insults. Why is the LA Times journalist an unreliable source? John must have been rather bored to bother fisking your stream of invectives.
I reread your comments three times and could find only one specific criticism of the post itself in the opening paragraph of an incoherent string of insults.I think that's a valid point. It would be good to point out specific deficiencies rather than making a general criticism.
I'm a critic of the Korean press in general, but I try to keep my criticisms specific and I am under no impression that it's all and sundry in the Korean media.
Why is the LA Times journalist an unreliable source? Email me off-blog for a story about why some LAT journalists are not so terribly reliable.
John must have been rather bored to bother fisking your stream of invectives.Again, my name is not John. Nobody calls me John, even as a nickname. If someone has said they know me and they call me John, they are misleading you. Acceptable nicknames for me are "Bo," "Ku," or "the Bus Barfer."
The only "John" in question is John Glionna of the LAT.
As for me, I am not bored (I have no time to be bored), but I do like to engage the people who bother visiting and commenting on my blog in a friendly and respectful manner. Sometimes, of course, I need to nudge them toward that manner.
What the hell is up with Blogger in Safari taking out the spaces between quoted material and the response? It looks fine in the preview, but then it gets all weird.ReplyDelete
Sorry about calling you John. I'll confess I often skim through long fiskings and missed that correction.ReplyDelete