Who will lead North Korea if Kim Jong-un dies?
With recent reports that North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un is not keeping well, the question arises: who will succeed him? Since taking charge in 2011, the 36-year-old ruler hasn't named a successor. Although it's safe to assume that the successor would be from the Kim family—that has ruled North Korea for seven decades—let's take a look at who could be the next ruler.
Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at South Korea's Sejong Institute, told Associated Press that the most likely candidate is Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong (31). She has "royal blood," and as her brother's close aide, has accompanied him in his summits with US President Donald Trump and China's Xi Jinping. The only thing working against her in the patriarchal line of succession is her gender.
There's also Kim Jong-chul, the North Korean leader's only surviving brother. However, Kim Jong-chul (38) has shown no interest in politics. His father, Kim Jong-il, also described him as "girlish" according to a memoir written by the former ruler's claimed personal sushi chef under the pen name Kenji Fujimoto. Kim Jong-il's eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was assassinated in 2017 with a VX nerve agent.
The Kim family has traditionally passed down power to male heirs, which makes Kim Jong-un's son a likely candidate. The son—believed to been born in 2010—is still too young to rule. He, however, could possibly rule under some form of regent until coming of age. Kim Jong-un is said to have two other children, who have all been shielded from the public.
Kim Jong-un also has an uncle, Kim Pyong-il (65), who reportedly returned to North Korea last year after serving as a diplomat in Europe for decades. There's also, Choe Ryong-hae, who became President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly last year. However, he's not from the Kim family. Some say royal family members and loyal senior figures could collectively lead North Korea.
Recently, an unconfirmed report in the Seoul-based website Daily NK stated that the North Korean leader had undergone heart surgery and was recovering at a villa outside Pyongyang. Thereafter, CNN reported that the United States was monitoring intelligence that the supreme leader was in "grave danger." Although South Korea has denied the reports, the ruler's absence from the public has only fueled more rumors.