Seoul, South Korea (CNN) – The North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has a new second-in-command, according to excerpts from a government document seen by CNN. The position was created in January as part of a review of the rules of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the communist political body that governs the secretive country.
It is not clear who has occupied it.
Experts believe that it could be vacant or occupied by Jo Yong Won or Kim Tok Hun, two of the most powerful men in the North Korean government. Jo, who is in his 60s and is believed to be one of Kim Jong Un’s oldest and most trusted advisers, is the secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. He is often photographed alongside the young North Korean leader. Kim Tok Hun is the Prime Minister of the North Korean Government.
According to the country’s state media, Jo and Kim have chaired meetings or made official visits across the country this year that previously would likely have been managed by Kim Jong Un.
Some analysts believe that only members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest echelon of the Korean Workers’ Party, would be eligible for the new role. This means that Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, is probably not the person chosen for the job, according to Lim Eul-chul, a professor at Kyungnam University’s School of North Korean Studies.
Although Kim has an influence “comparable to the second most powerful person in North Korea,” he does not rank high in the Korean Workers’ Party, Lim noted.
However, former Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said Kim Yo Jong may take over in the event of an emergency.
There is nothing to suggest that the creation of the position has to do with the health of Kim Jong Un, who was the subject of intense speculation last year after disappearing from state media for several weeks.
It is also unlikely that whoever occupies the new position, officially the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, will seize power. Kim jong un if he dies or is incapacitated.
Some analysts believe it would be difficult for Kim to designate a successor outside of his immediate family, which has ruled North Korea since its inception. Others believe that, as a man in his 30s, he is simply too young to think of a succession plan.
Kim may simply delegate some of her official duties to ease her workload. Until last year, Kim Jong Un was keeping a busy schedule full of public appearances, when he apparently asked Kim Yo Jong to oversee “general state affairs” as part of its responsibility-sharing initiatives.
Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Sejong Institute’s Center for North Korean Studies, said Kim may feel comfortable handing out more tasks to others because he is confident in his “grip on power.”
“It is clearly different from the policy-making style of his father, Kim Jong Il, who did not communicate well with party members and the public because he went through numerous documents one by one,” Cheong said.
Kim Jong Un once held the title of first secretary, but in January he appointed himself the party’s general secretary, a title previously held by his father. Kim Jong Il was appointed “perpetual secretary general” after his death in 2011.
The addition of the new position of first secretary was one of several changes that the Korean Workers’ Party made to its rules, the ninth time it has made such revisions.
Several of them emphasize Kim’s stated desire to improve North Korea’s economy. However, his plans to lift the country out of extreme poverty have largely failed due to international sanctions and the drastic measures Pyongyang enacted to keep covid-19 at bay.
The Korean Workers’ Party officially changed its policy to “people first,” formally abandoning the policy of prioritizing the Army under Kim Jong Il. That strategy, known as Songun in Korean, has not been followed since the early days of the Kim Jong Un regime.
The Korean Workers’ Party also removed the word “revolution” from its stated strategy on how it hopes to unify the Korean peninsula, which was divided by the USSR and the United States after World War II. Some South Korean media they interpreted the suppression as possible proof that Pyongyang no longer plans to reunify the two Koreas through revolution.
Relations between North Korea and its two main adversaries, South Korea and the United States, have remained cold in recent years. In a series of statements published, last monthPyongyang warned the United States that it would face an “uncontrollable crisis in the near future” and accused South Korea of carrying out an “intolerable provocation” against the Kim regime.
North Korea and its nuclear weapons program have not been a top priority for the administration of US President Joe Biden in its early days, although South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently visited Washington to discuss various issues of interest shared by Washington and Seoul.
The White House says it is open to diplomacy with the Kim regime and plans to follow a “calibrated and practical approach” that differs from the Trump administration’s strategy of trying to reach a big deal using made-for-television summits.