North Korea A career politician named Jang Song Taek recently became the second most powerful man in North Korea, injecting a dose of unpredictability into the power handoff playing out in Pyongyang between a father too sick and a son too young to manage the transition alone.
Many believe that the announcement of an agreement designating Kim Jong Eun the successor to his father, Kim Jong Il, could come at a rare government meeting in Pyongyang next month, though there is some disagreement among North Korea experts and analysts about the most likely timetable.
It is Jang, the 64-year-old vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, who has emerged as a third figure in any succession. There are other high-level leaders in North Korea, but no one else holds comparable clout. And no one else has been given more trust: put in a position in which he could serve as a mentor to Kim Jong Eun or attempt to seize power for himself once Kim Jong Il passes from the scene, at a time when North Korea’s starving population increasingly doubts whether the Kim way is the best way.