October 9, 2005

Mini-skirt soldiers dance as N.Korea ponders future

By Jack Kim

PYONGYANG (Reuters) - Women danced in mini-skirted military
uniforms as North Korea marked the 60th anniversary of its
communist party on Monday, while speculation mounted over
whether its leader would use the occasion to name a successor.

At an event attended by leader Kim Jong-il and thousands of
his military brass and cadres on Sunday, the emphasis was on
the keeping the military and ruling party strong.

"In accordance with the party, we must fight harder against
international threats," the North's No. 2, Kim Yong-nam, said
in remarks carried on state television.

The anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea is a time
when the reclusive country revels in mass games and provides
its citizens with a few extra bowls of rice to celebrate.

But for this anniversary, outside attention has been
focused on whether Kim Jong-il will name one of his three sons
to a key post in the ruling party, which in effect would amount
to naming a successor-in-waiting in the world's only communist

The Russian news agency Itar-Tass last week quoted a
diplomatic source in Pyongyang as saying Kim may use the event
to announce a successor. Analysts said the precise timing and
which son he would pick were anyone's guess.

The eldest of his known sons, Kim Jong-nam, has apparently
fallen into disfavor for trying to sneak into Japan on a false
passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

The other two, Kim Jong-chol and Kim Jong-un, are in their
20s and may be too young to be named the North's next
leader-in-waiting, analysts said.

Kim Seung-whan, a North Korea expert for the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, said Kim Jong-il must lay
the groundwork before naming a successor.

"If Kim Jong-il picks one of his sons as the North's next
leader, he and his successor will have to face some harsh
resistance from political and military leaders," Kim Seung-whan

"Kim does not have as much power and support from people as
his father."

At 63, Kim Jong-il is about the same age his father Kim
Il-sung was in 1974 when he made his son secretary to the
Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.

Taking that role in the ruling party structure was
tantamount to Kim Il-sung naming Kim Jong-il his successor,
analysts said.


The most pressing public concerns for North Korea's leaders
these days are not who will take over from Kim Jong-il.

Instead, Pyongyang may be preoccupied with forming
diplomatic priorities for the next round of multilateral talks
scheduled for November on ending its nuclear weapons programs.

Although Kim Jong-il sits as the general secretary of the
Workers' Party, analysts said the most powerful part of the
North Korean leadership was the military.

Kim Jong-il's real seat of leadership comes from his post
as the chairman of the National Defense Commission, they said.

Kim made a rare public appearance on Sunday to watch a mass
performance at May Day Stadium to mark the 60th anniversary of
the Workers' Party, where several performances celebrating the
"juche" doctrine of self-reliance preached by his father.

The festival was marked with song, thousands of people with
flash cards acting in perfect synchronization to form huge
pictures and a group of women swinging swords and high-kicking
in mini-skirted military garb.

"The performance made an impressive grand epic
representation of the majestic appearance of Juche Korea, which
has brought about a radical turn in hewing out the destiny of
the nation and made a dynamic advance toward a bright future,"
the official KCNA news agency reported.

Couples strolled hand in hand along the streets of the
capital on Monday, some wearing western clothes, some women and
girls wearing the traditional pink and blue Korean dress under
a picture-perfect blue sky.

"The party of steel, the party of no deceit," read one of
the many banners celebrating the anniversary on the streets.

Han Sung-chol, the guide for a visiting South Korean
delegation, beamed with pride. "You came on a great day," he

(With additional reporting by Cheon Jong-woo in Seoul)