SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s son and handpicked heir has been elected to parliament but he will at best become a figurehead under a military-led collective leadership, news reports said on Tuesday quoting a source.
Kim Jong-un was elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly at the elections in March last year from district 216, South Korean media quoted a Western source familiar with the North as saying.
The election may have been kept under wraps because the North has been wary of inciting discontent by publicly promoting Kim Jong-il’s son as heir during economic difficulties, analysts said.
“I have been able to confirm directly from a North Korean official that Kim Jong-un has been elected from the 216 electoral district,” the unnamed Western source was quoted by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper as telling reporters.
The number 216 signifies the birthday of the current leader and is reserved for persons of special entitlement, making it likely “Kim Jong” who appears on the list of elected delegates is in fact the youngest son of Kim Jong-il, the source said.
The Supreme People’s Assembly is the country’s rubberstamp body that formally approves decisions by the leadership but key officials of the military and the ruling party are typically its elected members.
Kim Jong-il appears to have struck a deal with the military after he suffered a stroke in 2008 to get his son accepted as the next leader in return for agreeing to take a hardline policy externally as demanded by the army, the source was quoted as saying.
“The military will probably come to the front after Kim Jong-il’s death as a collective leadership with Kim Jong-un as figurehead,” the source was quoted as saying.
There are indications that a new campaign to build a cult of personality for the junior Kim has begun, including the teaching of songs that try to give legitimacy to his place to succeed his ailing father, the source said.
The ruling communist party has called a rare meeting in September to elect a new leadership, a move analysts said could formally set in motion succession plans for Kim Jong-un to take over.
Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani