If Kim Jong Un Dies, Who Takes Over? Here’s What We Know

Kim Jong Un attends a press conference
Pyeongyang Press Corps / Getty Images

On Monday evening, reports began circulating that Kim Jong Un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, was gravely ill. The news escalated Saturday, April 25 with reports that Kim is dead or at least in a vegetative state, according to The Inquisitr.

Experts have suggested that, despite the fact that Kim Jong Un is overweight and smokes, leaders have been loath to form a plan for his death over fears that they would be accused of plotting against him.

“Probably they don’t have a succession plan, because having a succession plan would be tantamount to plotting a conspiracy against the leader,” said Andrei Lankov, a professor of Korean studies at Kookmin University in Seoul, per The Washington Post.

Though Kim Jong Un has children — former basketball star Dennis Rodman even met one of his daughters — they are all reportedly still young, and would not be able to rule a country.

“It is a dynastic system, and the Achilles’ heel of any dynastic system is what do you do until the eldest son is ready to rule,” added John Delury, a historian and North Korea scholar at Yonsei University.

As a result, many experts in North Korean policy believe that there would be a power vacuum in the event of Kim’s death as party leaders would scramble to take the top position.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves.
  Carl Court / Getty Images

Chief among the players would be Politburo Standing Committee — the highest-ranking group in the country. Though two of the three members may be too old to be considered likely replacements, Chairman of the Organization and Guidance Department, Choe Ryong Hae, is believed to be the most likely the succeed Kim.


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Ironically, Choe is responsible for filling leadership positions, making him especially suited to know what is required of Kim’s potential replacement.

However, according to NK News, it would remain to be seen whether Choe would claim the throne for himself, act as regent until Kim’s children could rule, or give the position to another family member — such as Kim’s sister, Yo Jong.

Kim Yo Jong has been emerging as a senior figure after her reported success in improving North Korea’s image at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Her appearance during the games was the first time a member of the Kim dynasty had visited the country since the Korean War.

Yo Jong recently released a statement in her own name, signaling that she will likely be a political force in the future.

However, Yo Jong is far from guaranteed the role should anything happen to her brother, as her gender may pose problems.

kim jong un standing in black
  Tuan Mark / Getty Images

Experts have pointed to other options as well, with Australia National University Professor Bates Gill hypothesizing that “a junta of generals” could take over, per 9 News Australia.

“I suppose in practice you could envision a junta of generals stepping in some way… Maybe there is a relative we don’t really know about who could be stood up as a legitimate successor.”

Meanwhile, North Korea has not issued any statements on the health of Kim Jong Un, though on Sunday it denied reports that Kim had been in communication with President Donald Trump.