02/29/2008, 00.00
NORTH KOREA
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Clapton invitation means Kim Jong-il has chosen his heir

Kim Jong-chul is the chosen one. First son from the Dear Leader’s fourth marriage, he is said to love the music of the American guitar player. Since last year he is deputy chairman of a leadership division of the Korean Workers' Party, the same post his father had before taking over.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – North Korea’s’Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il seems to have picked his successor, Kim Jong-chul, first son from his third marriage. The invitation to Eric Clapton to give a concert in Pyongyang is the last clue as to the choice; the younger Kim loves “slowhand” to the extent that he followed him on a European tour, this according to a variety of websites run by North Korean dissidents who follow the doings of the Kim dynasty.

For some political refugees, the dictator’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, designated heir till 1999, found himself out in the cold in 2000 after a private meeting with the country’s leadership in which he tried to push for Chinese-style economic policies and a more open foreign policy.

Other sources suggest instead that the eldest son fell into a trap set by his step-mother Ko Young-nee, who discredited him in the eyes of his father to ensure that her sons, Jong-chul e Jung-woon, would succeed the “Dear Leader” on his death.

According to some analysts the Clapton invitation is clearest signal possible. The North Korea Daily, an online paper that closely monitors events in the country, wrote that if Jong-nam had been chosen his father would have invited Euro Disney characters. In 2001, Kim Jong-nam was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport, apparently to visit Tokyo Disney Land, raising his father’s ire. Clapton’s coming could by contrast mean that the country’s future lies with Jong-chul.

Kim Jong-chul was born in 1981. After first studying in Pyongyang, he attended an international school in Berne (Switzerland) where he registered under an assumed name (this is one of two photos known to be of him from his time studying in Switzerland).

In 2007 Kim Jong-il appointed him deputy chairman of a leadership division of the Korean Workers' Party; the same post to which his father was appointed by the latter’s own father, Kim Il-sung, and which is the first step in the succession process.

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