North Korea (MNN) — "The Brilliant Comrade" Kim Jong-Un, the 27-year-old son of leader Kim Jong-Il, was appointed four-star general this week. KNCA, the official press agency of North Korea, announced his promotion one day before the rare Worker's Party Congress was held. Also, Kim Jong-Il's sister, Kim Kyung Hee, was made general.
Kim Jong-Un's promotion confirms the fact that he will be the most likely successor of his father as the leader of the country. This is another step in what could be a long process into a real power transfer. The announcement could have repercussions such as:
• Making him general is of symbolic significance as a gesture that North Korea will maintain the military-first political line and stance. Military-first means that the army is seen as the most important factor in the society. In all decisions, the military should be the main beneficiary. This also means that the army will get food before the people do.
• Even though the idolization of Kim Jong-Un slowly started a few years ago, the promotion is obviously used to elevate the atmosphere surrounding his reputation.
• The rank of general is also a sign that the process of handing over to him military authority, including that of the supreme commander, has begun.
Many more people will be appointed during the Delegates Conference in Pyongyang going on this week. Chances have grown that Kim Jong-Un will officially be named the successor of Kim Jong-Il, but there is also a possibility this will not be the case.
However, it is known that already 10 million copies of his portrait have been printed and are ready to be distributed among the people. Within certain Party circles it has already been publicized that Kim Jong-Un will become the next leader of the country. An illustrated book featuring his photo is officially circulating.
The Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world has named North Korea as No. 1 on the list for eight straight years.
However, Paul Estabrooks with Open Doors was in North Korea just last month. He says he sensed a change in the spiritual atmosphere. "As we traveled," said Estabrooks, "we were allowed to pray publicly. We sensed that there maybe just a little more relaxation on the spiritual. We certainly hope that will continue and be openings for freedom of worship in the country."
Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, says: "Change has come to North Korea. We need to pray that the change will be a positive one for the Christians there — including the estimated 70,000 believers who are suffering in North Korean prison camps where 200,000 people are held. We need to continue not only to pray, but also advocate for those brave Christians who live under brutal and nightmarish conditions with no basic freedoms."
Civilians are openly protesting decisions made by the government. These protests sometimes have led to violence between civilians and police. These clashes are a rare occurrence in a country with a tight security system and vast network of spies.
"Fifteen years ago Kim Jong-Il was still considered a god, but all these years of hunger have left the people disillusioned," says Simon, Open Doors' main contact for North Korea. "They have stopped believing the lie. Each time they put their trust in their leader, he has let them down."
Moeller adds, "We also need to pray for the new leadership…that it will not be 'business as usual' with its brutal regime and no freedom to believe in Jesus Christ."