Editor's Note: This is part of a symposium asking what happens if Kim Jong-un died. To read the other parts of the series click here.
It’s very likely that the North Korean political elite has a contingency plan in case their Supreme Leader suddenly dies. There’s too much at stake for them not to. The main question to resolve after Kim Jong-un’s death would be who would succeed him.
An authoritative Kim family member would be needed in order to maintain absolute control over the country. This person would most likely be Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s sister. There are several reasons for this.
First, the other adult members of the Kim family are either dead or in exile. Kim’s brother, Kim Jong-chol, is another unlikely option given his low profile and lack of interest in politics. Kim Yo-jong, on the other hand, has rapidly gained political notoriety both at home and abroad over the past two years.
It’s worth noting that Kim Jong-un himself was in a similar position as Kim Yo-jong a few years before his father died; receiving promotions, appearing in the media, and having his political profile strengthened. Finally, although there is speculation about Kim Jong-un having a son, very little is known about his children and, if indeed a son does exist, he would only be around ten years old now. Kim Yo-jong would thus have to take on the leadership position at least until Kim Jong-un’s eldest child comes of age.