Since the rumours over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's health and his death began emerging on social media, many speculated that his sister and close confidant, Kim Yo-jong could be the next leader of the secretive country. But there is another person who has emerged as a possible successor decades later and the world hardly talked about him.
He is the 65-year-old, Kim Jong Un's uncle and last known survivor of the Hermit Kingdom's founder Kim Il-sung, Kim Pyong-il.
The Kim dynasty in North Korea
It was in the 1970s when Kim Pyong-il was passed over by his half-brother, Kim Jong-il who took over the regime and ran the country from 1994 to 2011. Kim Pyong-il had spent around 40 years as a diplomat in other countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria, Finland, Poland and the Czech Republic. But in 2019 he returned to his homeland.
As per some North Korean experts, not Kim Yo-jong, but Kim Jong Un's uncle could take the control of the regime as the successor of the current leader, mainly due to his gender in the male-dominated North Korean society, reported Bloomberg.
Who will be next North Korean leader?
The youngest daughter of former leader Kim Jong-il has been the most visible presence around Kim Jong Un in the past two years, while serving formally as a vice director of the ruling Workers' Party's powerful Central Committee but unofficially as her brother's chief of staff. She was named an alternate member of the politburo earlier this month, continuing her climb through the leadership hierarchy.
But earlier, Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul said Kim Yo-jong is "unlikely to take over the helm but could help build a caretaker regime as a power broker until the kids grow up, and Kim Jong-chol might return to help for a while."
Thae Yong-ho, who served as North Korea's deputy ambassador to the UK before defecting to the South in 2016 said that "The problem is that a Kim Yo Jong-led North Korea is unlikely to be sustainable." In addition, he mentioned that a collective leadership with her as the country head could be a disaster. He said "To avoid this, some in the leadership would try to bring back Kim Pyong Il, who's now under house arrest, to the centre of the power," while some experts don't believe that Kim Pyong-il has a change for being the head of the country at this time.
A member of the South Korean parliament's intelligence committee, Kim Byeong-ki said on Sunday that "I laugh off these theories," as there was no indication if of Kim Pyong-il's leadership in North Korea.
As per the early reports when Kim Jong-un became the head of the country in 2011, he went in a purge, executing his aunt Kim Kyong-hui's husband Jang Song-thaek in 2013 who used to be one of the most powerful personalities in North Korea. It was also believed that Kim Jong-un has ordered the assassination of his half-brother Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia. As per the Bloomberg report, since his uncle Kim Pyong-il remains safe and alive, it may suggest that Kim Jong-un never saw him as a powerful figure who can claim the North Korea throne.