North Korea crisis: Kim Jong-un is wary about successor talk for this reason, says expert

And Professor James Hoare, of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, suggested an internal “debate” on the country’s future was underway – with no indication as to what the end result would be. Prof Hoare made his remarks after comments by Alexander Matsegora downplayed suggestions Kim Yo-jong was being groomed to replace him – and said even if she was her brother’s deputy, she would deny any such claim.

Prof Hoare told the information was highly credible.

He explained: “I have a lot of respect for the Russians and Chinese in their Pyongyang embassies.

“They probably have a better grasp of how the system works than most.

“Their staff are real experts on the country – most of the careers of the senior staff will have revolved around Korea – once of course, just the north and both north and south.”

The Hermit State operated according to its own rules little understood outside the country’s borders, Prof Hoare said.

However, Russian and Chinese diplomats had more understanding than most, he stressed.

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Prof Hoare does not endorse such a view but said: “I think there is some form of debate going on, in rather more public terms than we are used to in North Korea.

“But it is a big jump from that to being certain who is a successor.”

With respect to Kim Yo-jong, he said: “There are also still the considerations I pointed out before – youth, sex etc.”

Kim Jong-un was younger – possibly only 27 – when he replaced his father Kim Jong-il in 2011.

However, Prof Hoare said: “His father died suddenly.

“As far as we know, Kim Jong-un is not dead yet.”

Speaking earlier this week about Kim Yo-jong’s leadership credentials, Mr Matsegora told Russian news agency Tass: “There is absolutely no reason to say that she is being trained for such a situation.

“She is a rather young person though she has serious political and foreign policy experience.

“She can be viewed as a well-established high-ranking statesperson. This where I would put a full stop.”

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