North Koreans 'unhappy' about dynasty power transfer

South Korean protesters hold portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his son There have been protests in South Korea against the expected succession

North Koreans are reportedly unhappy about the prospect that the little-known son of the current leader will become their next ruler.

Public opinion is hard to gauge in the secretive state, but newspapers in neighbouring South Korea have been carrying comments from unnamed informants living in the North and unidentified defectors living outside the country, suggesting that the heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, is viewed in a negative light.

Kim Jong-un, reportedly the youngest son of leader Kim Jong-il, was last week given military and political promotions which have fuelled speculation that he is being prepared to take over the country's leadership - the third generation in the dynasty.

Neither respect nor fear

According to the South Korean newspaper Choson Ilbo, public opinion of the Kim dynasty has been worsening with each generation.

"Many see Kim Il-sung as a father figure who enjoyed widespread respect, but his son Kim Jong-il is seen as a dictator and tyrant and his grandson Kim Jong-un as a nobody without experience," the paper said.

One defector was quoted by the paper as saying: "Kim Il-sung was called the 'benevolent father of the people' and many shed genuine tears of sadness when he died. The older generation, whose lives became more difficult under Kim Jong-il, used to say things were better under Kim Il-sung."

According to the paper's informants "elderly people in North Korea who lived through the Japanese occupation (which ended in 1945) say even under Japanese rule, trains ran on time and food rations were distributed smoothly. They say Kim Jong-il is worse than the Japanese because millions have starved to death and the economy has collapsed".

As for Kim Jong-un, defectors are quoted by Choson Ilbo as saying North Koreans feel neither respect nor fear. They view him as a child.

The South Korean newspaper The Daily NK says that "the North Korean authorities are working hard to limit the spread of negativity and wild rumours about Kim Jong-un but finding it a tough task".

Daily NK quoted an unnamed provincial source as saying that "negative words about Kim Jong-un have been circulating, so a decree was released whereby party organs and the National Security Agency dispatched secret 'net agents' (spies) into the local community to survey public opinion and then report back to the authorities. Therefore, nowadays we have to watch our tongues. Otherwise, we don't know where we might end up.''

Dream of change blown away

"Of course, the regime had been expected to push for a third-generation power succession. But I'd never thought that it would let Kim Jong-un make a public appearance so soon," a former senior North Korean government official who defected to the South was quoted as saying by Choson Ilbo.

"It seems the regime has more or less established him as the successor to the leadership. It appears that Kim Jong-il is near death given that he allowed his son to make his first public appearance so quickly."

Another defector said: "North Korean students and intellectuals had hoped that the dictatorial system would collapse when Kim Jong-il dies. But their dream of change has been blown away due to Kim Jong-un's appearance."

According to Hiroshi Kato, head of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, an organisation aiding defectors from North Korea: "Continuation of the Kim dynasty means there will be no change to the situation in the country where many people continue to die."

Quoted by Japan's The Daily Yomiuri, Kato added: "Improvement in the country's human rights situation depends on diplomatic efforts by neighbouring countries.

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