ABSTRACT

The transition in power from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un attracted significant US attention. The early weeks and months of the transition were relatively smooth, at least formally. Between December 2011 and April 2012, Kim Jong Un was confirmed as the Supreme Leader of North Korea thanks to his appointments as Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army on 30 December 2011, as well as Leader of the Presidium of the Politburo, Chair of the Central Military Commission and First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea on 11 April 2012 and Chairman of the National Defence Commission on 13 April 2012. 1 In public, Kim Jong Un headed the ceremonies to honour his father and issued the traditional New Year message with which North Korea’s supreme leaders set out the priorities for the following year ( KCNA 2011m, 2011n, 2011o, 2012a). In private, however, the situation was not so simple. It would take several years of internal infighting for the younger Kim to finally consolidate his power, as explained throughout this and the next chapter. Therefore, consolidation of his position as supreme leader was the main driver behind Kim Jong Un’s actions during his first few years in power (Thae 2018).