Assessment of Candidates
Given the secrecy which surrounds North Korean politics, an accurate assessment of potential candidates to be the next leader of the country is impossible. It is widely believed there is a collective leadership style of governance within North Korea, meaning that any one ruler is likely to be the head of a collective decision-making body, rather than having sole control over the country’s policy decisions. Despite this lack of clarity, there are several potential names, which tend to resurface when considering who will take over the reins of power in North Korea.
Hyon Song-wol, the leader of North Korea’s elite girl group, Moranbong, is a major contender. In 2017 she was appointed to a top military position, which could be seen as a sign that she is being groomed for leadership.
Choe Ryong-hae, an official and high-ranking member of the Workers’ Party, is also thought to be in the running for the leadership role. Given his prominent role in the funeral activities for Kim Il Sung, the former leader of North Korea, he appears to be gaining favour with the regime.
Kim Yo-jong, the sister of current leader Kim Jong Un, is another potential candidate. She is known to have a close relationship to her brother and is seen as a close political adviser.
Other potential candidates are Ri Sol-ju, Kim’s wife, Kim Pyong-il, Kim’s father’s half-brother, and Pak Pong-ju, a former prime minister of North Korea.
North Korea’s Succession Process
North Korea has a dynastic succession process, meaning that the current leader’s family members are given priority for the role. This could explain why the two women in the running for the leadership role, Hyon Song-wol and Kim Yo-jong, are related to Kim Jong Un by blood. It also makes it unlikely that someone from outside the family with no clear political links to the regime would make the cut.
However, although Kim Jong Un is the current leader of North Korea, he does not have full control over the process of selecting the country’s next leader. In Kim Jong Un’s case, the decision was made by the ruling Workers Party, but it is unknown if the same process will be followed in the future.
Under the North Korean constitution, the successor must be proposed by the ruling party, and then approved by the party’s Central Committee. This means that, even if the current leader chooses their successor, the person must still undergo a rigorous vetting process.
The selection process typically involves a series of tests designed to assess the candidate’s aptitude for leadership. These tests include psychological tests, simulated crisis scenarios, and physical tests.
There is great international interest in who will become the next leader of North Korea as the country has become increasingly isolated from the rest of the world due to ongoing political tensions and its nuclear weapons program. A new leader could potentially alter North Korea’s position in the international arena, and so the apprehension surrounding the topic is understandable.
Given the global attention that the succession process has generated, international organisations such as the United Nations have urged North Korea to rely on a more transparent and democratic process when selecting its next leader.
Despite their appeals, North Korea’s ruling party maintains that the decision of who will become the next leader will be made internally, without any external influence.
The Country’s Future
The selection of the next leader of North Korea will have a profound influence on the country’s future. Will the new leader make efforts to improve the economy and living standards of the citizens? Will there be a greater focus on human rights? Will international relations be improved? These are all questions that remain unanswered, and will depend largely on who is selected to lead the country.
Some have argued that the limited number of potential candidates due to the ruling family’s preference for a dynastic succession could be beneficial, as the candidates have already been pre-vetted to some degree, and are likely to be familiar with North Korean politics and culture. On the other hand, the lack of diversity among the potential leaders also raises some concerns as to the long-term effectiveness of the leadership.
North Korea’s Struggles
Whilst North Korea has become increasingly hostile to the international community, with its nuclear weapons program and the threat it poses to global stability, it is also important to remember the tragedy that has befallen the nation in recent years.
The country has experienced significant hardship due to famine, economic hardship, and human rights abuses, and has suffered under the rule of the Kim dynasty for decades. A more equitable and democratic form of leadership may be desirable, but it is also possible that such a radical change could cause instability in the nation.
North Korea faces several economic challenges which will need to be addressed by the next leader. Despite international sanctions, the influx of resources caused by North Korean workers abroad has enabled the country to survive. Combined with the nation’s largest export, coal, they have allowed North Korea to remain afloat.
The next leader must improve the nation’s economy and employment prospects in order to see any meaningful change to the well-being of North Korean citizens. Economic reforms that encourage openness to foreign investment, increased trade and modernisation must also be implemented if the nation is to recover.
Conclusion of Nuclear Program
North Korea’s nuclear program has been a major concern for the international community for decades. The nation’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, has vowed to denuclearise the country, although many argue that this is a ruse and the country remains a nuclear weapons state. It is unclear if the next leader will alter this stance; for now, Kim Jong Un has indicated his commitment to the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
The talks between North Korea and the US have been ongoing, but no tangible progress has yet been made in terms of nuclear disarmament. The next leader of North Korea must find a way to break this stalemate and make progress towards resolving the issue.
The Impact of US Sanctions
The US has imposed several economic sanctions on North Korea since 2006, in an effort to put pressure on the nation to abandon its nuclear weapons program. These sanctions have been responsible for exacerbating poverty and preventing the nation from accessing resources which might aid in its recovery.
The next leader of North Korea must convince the US of its commitment to nuclear disarmament and strive for a diplomatic solution, if the nation is to survive in the long-term and break out of its economic stagnation.
The Role of China
China is North Korea’s closest ally and has been a primary provider of aid and economic support. In addition, China also wields considerable influence over the country, as demonstrated by its ability to push for negotiations between North Korea and the US and its role in the enforcement of international sanctions.
The next leader of North Korea must take into account China’s influence and strive for an amicable relationship in order to ensure the nation’s security and prosperity. It will also be important to maintain the diplomatic ties between the two countries, in order to protect North Korea’s interests.
The International Community’s Response
Although the decision of who will be the next leader of North Korea will be made internally, the international community is likely to view the selection with apprehension. The succession process has been shrouded in secrecy and so it is difficult to predict who the new leader will be.
Nevertheless, given the country’s relationship with the international community, and the current global instability caused by North Korea’s aggressive foreign policies, it is likely that the world will be closely watching the selection and its implications for the future of the nation.