News

DATE=9/6/98 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT NUMBER=5-41313 TITLE=PROFILE: KIM JONG-IL BYLINE=ROGER WILKISON DATELINE=BEIJING CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: NORTH KOREA'S PARLIAMENT HAS RE-ELECTED DE FACTO LEADER KIM JONG-IL AS HEAD OF THE COMMUNIST COUNTRY'S NATIONAL DEFENSE COMMISSION -- DESCRIBED AS THE HIGHEST POSITION IN THE STATE. V-O-A CORRESPONDENT ROGER WILKISON REPORTS THAT -- ALTHOUGH THE MOVE CONSOLIDATES MR. KIM'S POWER AS HEIR TO HIS LATE FATHER, KIM IL-SUNG -- LITTLE IS KNOWN ABOUT THE 56-YEAR-OLD NORTH KOREAN LEADER. TEXT: KIM IL-SUNG RULED NORTH KOREA FOR 46 YEARS AND GROOMED HIS ELDEST SON TO TAKE HIS PLACE IN THE COMMUNIST WORLD'S FIRST-EVER DYNASTIC SUCCESSION. THE YOUNGER MR. KIM WAS NAMED HEAD OF NORTH KOREA'S POWERFUL MILITARY MACHINE IN 1991 AND -- THREE YEARS AFTER HIS FATHER'S DEATH IN 1994 -- ASSUMED THE LEADERSHIP OF THE RULING WORKERS' PARTY. HE WAS EXPECTED TO BE ELECTED BY THE RUBBER-STAMP PARLIAMENT TO NORTH KOREA'S PRESIDENCY, SATURDAY. INSTEAD, HE WAS CONFIRMED AS HEAD OF THE NATIONAL DEFENSE COMMISSION -- A POST WHERE POWER WAS BOOSTED BY MEANS OF A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND OFFICIALLY DESCRIBED AS THE RECLUSIVE STATE'S HIGHEST POSITION. DIPLOMATS WHO FOLLOW NORTH KOREAN AFFAIRS BELIEVE THE PRESIDENCY HAS BEEN ABOLISHED OR WILL BE LEFT PERMANENTLY VACANT AS A SIGN OF RESPECT FOR MR. KIM'S LATE FATHER. ORGANIZATIONS IN SEOUL AND TOKYO THAT MONITOR DEVELOPMENTS IN THE HERMIT-LIKE COMMUNIST COUNTRY SAY MR. KIM HAS FURTHER CONSOLIDATED HIS POWER. TOKYO'S RADIOPRESS NEWS AGENCY NOTES 16 OF THE 25 TOP CABINET POSTS ARE HELD BY NEW APPOINTEES. SEOUL'S SEMI-OFFICIAL NAEWOE PRESS SEES THE ENHANCEMENT OF MR. KIM'S ROLE AS HEAD OF THE NATIONAL DEFENSE COMMISSION AS A SIGN OF NORTH KOREA'S GROWING EMPHASIS ON THE MILITARY AS THE BACKBONE OF THE STATE. DESPITE A RELENTLESS PROPAGANDA BARRAGE BY NORTH KOREA'S OFFICIAL MEDIA STRESSING SELF-RELIANCE, THE COUNTRY HAS BEEN FORCED TO SEEK INTERNATIONAL HANDOUTS BY THREE YEARS OF FOOD SHORTAGES THAT -- BY SOME ESTIMATES -- HAVE CAUSED THE DEATHS OF AT LEAST ONE MILLION PEOPLE. THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IS BELIEVED TO BE GETTING WORSE, WITH OUTPUT FALLING AND CASH RESERVES DWINDLING. STILL, NORTH KOREA HAS THE WORLD'S FIFTH-LARGEST MILITARY APPARATUS. DESPITE A 1994 DEAL WITH WASHINGTON TO FREEZE AND ULTIMATELY DISMANTLE ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM, THERE ARE STILL SUSPICIONS ABOUT ITS INTENTIONS. THE TEST-FIRING OVER JAPAN, LAST MONDAY OF A BALLISTIC MISSILE --WHICH NORTH KOREA SAYS WAS USED TO PUT A SATELLITE INTO ORBIT-- IS SEEN AS A WORRISOME INCREASE IN PYONGYANG'S MILITARY CAPABILITIES. KIM JONG-IL APPEARS TO BE AS MYSTERIOUS AND UNPREDICTABLE AS HIS COUNTRY. DESCRIBED BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE SEEN HIM AS SHORT, PUDGY AND BESPECTACLED, WITH AN EXAGGERATED POMPADOUR HAIRCUT, HE IS RARELY PHOTOGRAPHED AND HIS VOICE IS ALMOST NEVER BROADCAST. HE HAS MADE ONLY A FEW KNOWN FOREIGN TRIPS TO COMMUNIST COUNTRIES -- ALL OF THEM CLOAKED IN SECRECY. ALTHOUGH THE NORTH KOREAN MEDIA HAILS HIM AS A RENAISSANCE MAN WHO FLIES FIGHTER PLANES AND WRITES OPERAS, WESTERN, JAPANESE AND SOUTH KOREAN ANALYSTS BELIEVE THERE IS A MORE SINISTER SIDE TO HIM. THEY SUSPECT HE MASTERMINDED A 1983 TERRORIST BOMBING IN BURMA THAT KILLED 17 HIGH-RANKING SOUTH KOREAN OFFICIALS AND THE 1987 BOMBING OF A SOUTH KOREAN AIRLINER THAT KILLED ALL 115 PEOPLE ABOARD. (SIGNED) NEB / WD / WD 06-Sep-98 3:34 AM EDT (0734 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .