Friday, December 25, 2009

One of our dinosaurs is missing

The AFP is reporting that North Korea's Defense Minister has not been seen for almost a month.

Septuagenarian Vice Marshal Kim Yongchun has been absent from North Korea's publicity machine since the end of November (which would hurt his chance to become Grand Marshal and run parades). From the AFP:
Vice Marshal Kim Yong-Chun, 73, failed to attend a national meeting Wednesday to mark the 18th anniversary of leader Kim Jong-Il's assumption of the army's supreme command, Yonhap news agency said.

The ceremony in Pyongyang brought together senior party, army and government officials, as well as representatives of the public, according to Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency.
But Kim Yong-Chun was not seen on TV footage of the meeting and his name was absent when broadcasting stations reeled off a long list of participants.

It would be considered an astonishing act of defiance for an invitee to deliberately miss the highly symbolic event aimed at eulogising Kim Jong-Il's leadership, observers noted.

The vice marshal's last public appearance was reported on November 29. State media said he accompanied Kim Jong-Il on a visit to a military-run livestock farm.

Kim Yong-Chun is known to be suffering from severe diabetes which almost cost him his eyesight and hearing, Yonhap said.
I'm always interested in these things because I'm always trying to get a picture for how strong Kim Jong-il's position is. Did Vice Marshal Kim fall out of favor? (Though perhaps a bit speculative, the AFP article suggests that with their comment on such "an astonishing act of defiance.") If so, for what? Is this a chink in the armor?

Or is he sick and possibly dying? And if so, does this weaken KJI's position in any way, since his strength comes largely due to his relationship with the military?

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