Sunday, June 01, 2008

Kim Ok, the First Lady of the DPRK

There is no officially proven record about Kim Jong-il's marriage. However, he is believed to have married four times. His wives are Kim Young-suk, Song Hye-rim, Ko Young-hee and Kim Ok. Among them, Kim Ok is the only wife who is still alive.

The Yonhap News interestingly reports Kim Ok as an emerging power in North Korea. After the death of Ko Young-hee in 2004, the fourth wife, Kim Ok, is known as the virtual First Lady of the DPRK, influencing politics. Indeed, she exerts political power with her close aide, Lee Je-gang, one of political figures of the Workers' Party. She showed up at a meeting in the U.S. as a member of a special envoy in 2000 and even directed a final rehearsal of a military march in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People's Army in 2007. She is not well known to the world but appears to be one of the most powerful North Korean political figures for sure.

According to several acquainted sources, Kim Ok secretly carries forward a scheme regarding the leadership succession of her 24 year old son, Jong-woon, to ascend to leadership after Kim Jong-il. Allegedly, she thinks that a successive leader should be selected among Kim Jong-il's sons and tries to please Kim Jong-il by resolving the matter of succession as a secret present. To accomplish her goal, she tries to monitor the movement of people who are close to Kim Jong-il's other sons, especially, the eldest Kim Jong-nam. Because of the closeness in their ages, she is known to be concerned about being purged by Kim Jong-nam, in case he receives the reign from Kim Jong-il.

It is commonly known that DPRK succession is a taboo to discuss for it might have brought about a surprising lame duck period of Kim Jong-il's leadership. However, as seen in the recent false rumor of Kim Jong-il’s death, he is old and his reign cannot last forever. Thus, leadership succession can be a fatal turning point of the DPRK. In this regard, I view that it is nothing but a prelude to the power struggle of post Kim Jong-il North Korea. Irrespective of various presumptions, four of Kim Jong-il's sons have still the possibility to be chosen as a leader. We do not yet know clearly. But, if Kim Ok is successful in pushing her confidential plan, she is likely to wield strong power as the Queen regent.

1 comment:

ljplasse said...

It is interesting to see the idea of chastity applied to women has absolutely no bearing on men. As we discussed in class, one of the most awful consequences of Comfort Women was the fact that since their chastity was compromised, it became very difficult for any of the women to step forward and discuss what happened. Obviously in all societies mens sexuality is very different than womens sexuality, but Kim Jong-il's fourth wife? It seems like four is a lot.