The mystery surrounding Kim Jong Un’s health exposes deep uncertainty about North Korea’s line of succession more than eight years after he took power.
While the Kim family has ruled for seven decades by passing power between male heirs like other hereditary dynasties, the 36-year-old Kim has named no successor. His own children are still young and the ruling family’s surviving adults all face potential barriers to their rise.
Here are some possible successors:
Kim Yo Jong, Sister
Part royal representative, part personal assistant, Kim Yo Jong has emerged as one of her older brother’s closest aides. Earlier this month, she was reinstated as an alternate Politburo member of the ruling Workers Party of Korea. As such, she’s the only other member of the Kim family with anything approaching real power in the regime.
Although she became the first member of the ruling family to visit Seoul and accompanied Kim Jong Un in his summits with U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping, she’s also performed mundane tasks, such as helping the leader extinguish a cigarette during a train stop in China. Whether North Korea’s patriarchal elite will support a relatively young woman as the country’s next “supreme leader” is unclear.
Kim Jong Un’s Son
A male heir would provide the most conventional line of succession in a dynasty previously ruled by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, and founded by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. South Korean intelligence said Kim married Ri Sol Ju, a former singer, in 2009 and is thought to have three children.
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