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N. Korean website raises succession issue ahead of key party meeting

All Headlines 14:02 September 15, 2010

By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- In a clear indication North Korea is paving the ground for a power succession, a Web site operated by a university in the communist state is calling for picking the right successor to leader Kim Jong-il, possibly alluding to his son.

"Only when the successor to the leader is selected right can the leader's ideas and revolutionary exploits be firmly maintained and spectacularly passed down," said a post on Kim Il-Sung Broadcasting University's website, uriminzokgangdang, seen here on Wednesday.

Citizens in South Korea, which bans the communist state's propaganda material citing years of enmity between them, are blocked from accessing the Web site at http://www.ournation-school.com.

North Korean Web sites and media strictly refrain from raising the issue of succession, even though it is widely believed from outside that Kim, 68, has been trying to hand over power to his third son since he suffered a stroke in the summer of 2008.

During the forthcoming Workers' Party meeting in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un, around 27, is expected to be given a ranking position that could help pave the way for him to eventually take over the regime.

The uriminzokgangdang post, written in early September in the form of an answer to an apparently pre-arranged question, also said the successor must establish exclusive authority because, until that happens, political turmoil could emerge.

"Not everyone can be a successor to the leader, and just because someone is presented as a successor, it does not mean he can carry out significant tasks as such," it said, making it clear that the country faces a "succession issue."

Uriminzokgangdang means "lecture hall of our nation" in English.

"This seems to be a feeler North Korea is putting out to see how its young people will see the father-to-son succession," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies.

The fact the post was made by a school lower in prestige than Kim Il-sung University indicates that the North is not yet ready to go full throttle in publicizing the successor, he said.

It was not immediately clear where the Kim Il-sung Broadcasting University is located. Media reports from Pyongyang indicate the school is based in the capital. The university has been operating its Web site since 2004 to give online lectures on such topics as the ideology of "juche" or self-reliance.

Yang said the school appears to be based in Pyongyang since it bears the name of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994 after years of grooming his son, Kim Jong-il, as his successor.

If Kim Jong-un receives the helm of the impoverished North, it will be the communist world's first back-to-back hereditary power transition. Little is known about the man who reportedly spent a part of his teens in Switzerland.

Analysts say Kim Jong-il sought to secure China's recognition of his son as successor when he made a surprise visit to Pyongyang's foremost benefactor late last month. They also believe it is likely that the North Korean regime will rule its 23-million population through an oligarchy with Kim Jong-un posing as its figurehead when Kim Jong-il dies.


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