Chang Song-min, a former aide to Kim Dae-jung, the late President of South Korea, started the speculation after saying he believed the 36-year-old
Chang Song-min, a former aide to Kim Dae-jung, the late President of South Korea, started the speculation after saying he believed the 36-year-old was in a coma. Roy Calley, a journalist who has visited the Hermit State on a number of occasions, subsequently told Express.co.uk he believed Kim was already dead.
However, Dr Jim Hoare, a former Foreign Office official who is now a research analyst specialising in China, Japan and Korea at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, does not believe the reports are accurate.
Dr Hoare told Express.co.uk he had detected none of the things which he would associate with such a momentous event.
He explained: “Being an former aide to Kim Dae-jung does not make you an expert on the North or privy to special knowledge necessarily.
On the morning on December 19, famous North Korean news anchor Ri Chun-hee, who also announced the death of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il’s father and Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, in 1994, confirmed Kim Jong-il had died of a massive heart attack.
Afterwards, the head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service questioned the official version of events, citing surveillance footage which suggested Kim’s personal train, on which he was said to have died, had not moved over the course of the weekend in question.
After the confirmation of his death, Kim Jong-il’s embalmed body lay in state in a glass coffin at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace for 11 days.
Numerous pictures still available on the internet show massed ranks of people grieving.
The US-backed NK News newspaper claimed anyone failing to participate in organised mourning sessions, or who did not seem genuinely sorrowful, was sentenced to at least six months in a labour camp.
As for what would happen after Kim’s death – and who would take over – details remain unclear.
With reference to Kim’s 32-year-old sister report published on the 38 North website earlier this year, written by Chris Steinitz, Ken Gause and Elizabeth Yang, said: “The systematic rise and positioning of Kim Yo-jong signals the development of a continuity of governance plan, although the details of this plan remain unclear.
It might be that she was being groomed as his successor, or alternatively would plays a prominent leadership role, perhaps as some sort of regent.
The authors added: “What is clear is that by virtue of the responsibilities her brother has granted her, she will have a seat at the table and is likely to be the person responsible for protecting the Kim family equities.”