North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle Kim Pyong-il, who has been sidelined for years, has suddenly gained relevance as a possible successor to the throne. Kim Pyong-il returned to North Korea last year after spending years in foreign countries on diplomatic posts.
Kim Pyong-il lived in several countries including Hungary, Bulgaria, Finland, Poland and the Czech Republic and was kept away from North Korea for decades to erase the influence. While the speculations around the whereabouts of North’s Supreme Leader has intensified, experts suggest that Kim Pyong-il, the last surviving son of Kim II Sung, could emerge as the next dynastic leader.
However, several media reports have indicated that Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo-Jong, could be the next premier of North Korea because of her multiple appearances in places of prominence. Recently, Kim Jong Un ordered a reshuffle of the political bureau of the central committee and ended up giving his sister a prominent position on the cabinet.
Kim Pyong-il lost the leadership battle to his half-brother Kim Jong-il in the 1970s and never got the chance to reclaim the power as Kim Jong Un took over the reins after his father’s demise in 2011. Experts who discount Kim Yo-Jong for her age and gender due to largely patriarchal society feel that this could be the best chance for Kim Pyong-il to claim the throne.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA has been unusually silent on the condition of Kim which is palpable in its reports. While it has mentioned about the North Korean leader issuing orders and taking other actions as if business as usual, it has neither disclosed the location nor clarified on his health condition.
The North Korean legislature held its third session on April 12 in the absence of its Supreme Leader. Kim also remained absent from commemorations of his grandfather’s birth anniversary, triggering speculations around unusual break away from traditions.