North Korea names Kim Jong Il as party chief
October 9, 1997
Web posted at: 9:21 a.m. EDT (1321 GMT)
PYONGYANG, North Korea (CNN) -- As expected, the reclusive Kim Jong Il was formally named leader of communist North Korea's ruling party, a move giving him two of the country's top three leadership posts.
Kim's election as general secretary of the Workers Party of Korea was formally announced Wednesday in a special communiqué by the party's Central Committee and the Central Military Commission.
Kim, 55, has been the undisputed leader of North Korea since the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, in July 1994. Even before the elder Kim's death, he was named head of the country's 1.1 million-strong military and anointed to succeed his father as party chief and president.
|CNN Hong Kong Bureau Chief Mike Chinoy explains what Kim's succession means for North Korea...
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|...and what it means for the muti-party talks that broke down last month
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He is expected to assume the presidency later this year or in 1998.
In recent months, the North's media had begun referring to the younger Kim as "great leader," a reverential title once reserved for his father. The younger Kim had been known for years as "dear leader."
North Korea's Korean Central News Agency has been full of reports of "mysterious natural phenomena" -- the out-of-season blooming of pear and apricot trees, roses and other flowers -- heralding Kim's ascension.
In South Korea, the government reaction was positive. A Unification Ministry spokesman said the South hoped the North would take this opportunity to improve relations on the Korean Peninsula.
Korea analysts said the chances of this happening were better than ever, largely due to North Korea's economic woes. After years of floods and drought, the north is devastated by famine.
International aid workers say hundreds of thousands of North Koreans, many of them children, could face starvation.
Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae
and Hong Kong Bureau Chief Mike Chinoy
contributed to this report.