Though North Korea has never publicised who will lead after Kim Jong Un, analysts say that his sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.
On Tuesday, South Korean and Chinese officials had doubted that Kim was seriously ill and when he missed his grandfathers anniversary.
After this, media reports has been raising questions about who would be in place to take over if the 36-year-old Kim, feel seriously ill or died.
Amidst Kim Health Question Over North Korea Succession
Kim is the third-generation hereditary leader who took over when his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack. The Kim dynasty has been ruling the country since its founding in 1948.
So far, each of the three Kims to rule North Korea has defied expectations, holding on to power with an iron grip. But under Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has grown substantially, raising concerns over who would control those weapons.
Following are some key figures who could lead the North Korea :
Kim Yo Jong
Kim’s younger sister has been seen around the leader these past few years. She is serving as vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee but unofficially as her brother’s chief of staff.
Earlier this month, she was named an alternate member of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee Politburo.
Kim, who is believed to be 31, is continously climbing up the leadership hierarchy and has a firm control over the key party functions.
“Kim Yo Jong will be for the time being the main power base with control of the organisation and guidance department, the judiciary and public security,” Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification said.
Last year Choe Ryong Hae rose to be North’s nominal head of state, becoming the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly. Previously he served as the influential political head of the North’s military.
Kim Yong Chol, a party vice chairman and former top nuclear envoy, and Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon could be tasked with handling diplomatic issues including stalled denuclearisation talks with North Korea as they played a key role in summits with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Kim Jong Un is believed to have three children with Ri Sol Ju, the youngest born in 2017, according to the South’s National Intelligence Service.
If any of the 3 were to become a fourth-generation hereditary leader, the would be needing assistance of their relatives or political guardians as the oldest child is just 10 years old.
Kim Jong Il had been groomed for 20 years to lead the country, while Kim Jong Un only had just over a year due to his father’s sudden death from a stroke.
“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,” said Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.