Download You might not have heard the name Kim Jong-un before; he’s the youngest son of the reclusive North Korean ruler Kim Jong il.
Most North Koreans also had never heard of him either until this week when he was promoted to prominent positions in the military and ruling Worker’s Party.
Analysts believe this is the first step in a succession plan that will hand over power from father to son.
Many North Korean defectors living in South Korea say they’ve been expecting this announcement for a while.
Reporter Jason Strother in Seoul met with a group of refugees and got their reactions to the news coming out of the North.
Lee Sae Yul receives calls throughout the day from family and contacts back in North Korea.
They reach him on Chinese cell phones smuggled in across the border.
They share information about what’s happening inside his former homeland.
The 41 year old is a 13-year veteran of North Korea’s army. He used to design war simulation programs before he defected to the South in 2008.
Lee says most of his sources had never heard the name Kim Jong-un until now and that’s thanks to a song.
“There is a propaganda song about Kim Jung-un called footsteps that’s been widely spread around to the public. But his name hadn’t been said, they just called him the Young General.”
Lee says it’s no surprise to him nor to other members of the North Korea Liberation Front, a Seoul-based organization of ex-soldiers, that Kim Jong-un was promoted to the rank of a four star general and apparently on his way to the North Korean leadership.
Lee doubts that Kim has any military experience.
But the North Korea Liberation Front’s director, Kim Myoung Ha, says any future leader must have military credentials.
“If anyone wants a job in North Korea they must have two things, an education and military experience. The whole nation is based on the military.”
His organisation tries to inform North Korean soldiers that their new general is a fraud by sending DVDs and other media across the border.
Analysts in Seoul believe the young general is either 27 or 28 years old, the product of an affair between Kim Jong il and a mistress. Former students at a boarding school in Switzerland say Kim Jong-un was their classmate and that he’s a big basketball fan.
Any other information about the heir apparent comes from paid informants inside North Korea that work with South Korean human rights groups.
Han Taekyoung is the director of Open North Korea Radio.
Han gave a press briefing the day of Kim Jong-un’s promotion to help fill in some of the blank spaces in his biography.
He is said to have lots of charisma, Han says.
Despite his young age, he talks with a lot of confidence. He fires people without any hesitation and shows cruelty. It’s widely rumored that he even ordered the killing of a political opponent earlier this year.
Han’s North Korean government sources say that Kim Jong-un was named successor back in 2007 and quickly got to work on plotting against Pyongyang’s external enemies.
Kim Jong-un organized a cyber terrorism unit, and launched an attack on South Korean websites that year.
Han also says that Kim was behind the torpedoing of a South Korean navy ship this past March, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.
Whether this is the truth or just internal North Korean propaganda is difficult to determine.
But some North Koran defectors say no matter what the regime says about Kim Jon-un, very few people in North Korea actually care about who their next leader will be.
That’s according to Park Gun Ha.
He was once a member of North Korea’s Worker’s Party and now belongs to another defector organization comprised of some former government officials.
“North Koreans lost hope when Kim Jong il took over and the economy went bad. Now they don’t really care about who the successor is. They are much more concerned with how they will survive.”
Park says the North Korean government keeps making pledges that it will rebuild the nation’s tattered economy.
And they’re using Kim Jong-un to sell their plans to the citizens.
“The North Korean regime has created this image of Kim Jong-un, that he can make the economy better, but no one really believes that.”
And Park says when the economy fails to improve, Kim Jong il or Jong-un, will just do what North Korea has always done, blame South Korea and the United States.