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North Korea leadership changes strong on family ties

By the CNN Wire Staff
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North Korea's changing leadership
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Il lays groundwork for transfer of power
  • Kim's brother-in-law promoted to vice-chairman of National Defense Commission
  • Analysts say it appeard leader's youngest son Kim Jong Un is being groomed as successor

(CNN) -- Dramatic changes in North Korean leadership this week appear to be paving the way for an eventual transfer of power from leader Kim Jong Il to his youngest son, analysts say.

Jang Song Thaek, Kim's brother-in-law and long thought to be Kim's right-hand man, was promoted to vice-chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission at the Supreme People's Assembly, the communist nation's parliament, on Monday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency report.

Jang's appointment is crucial, according to Kim Sung-han, a professor at Korea University in Seoul, because he's seen as providing a support network for Kim's son and his nephew, Kim Jong Un. Not only is Jang family, but he's a top official in the military as the vice-chairman of the NDC.

His appointment signifies the power succession process is taking place and that he plays a key role as "liaison between the party and the military," said Kim Sung-han.

Video: Rare interview with Kim Jong-il's son

Parliament also named Choe Yong Rim as the country's new premier Monday, replacing Kim Yong Il. It was not immediately known why Kim, elected to the post in 2007, was removed in favor of Choe.

"The Prime Minister used to work with Kim Jong Il's father, Kim Il Sung. He is very close to the Kim family," said Han Park, a professor at the University of Georgia. "That has some succession implications.

"So, the fact that young Kim Jong Un, the presumed successor, is the son of Kim Jong Il and grandson of Kim Il Sung -- so that kind of legitimacy of authority stems from the family, as opposed to the person's capability or leadership ability," Park said.