N Korea`s succession faces challenges: Minister

North Korean leader is believed to have speeded up the succession plan after suffering a stroke in August 2008.

Last Updated: Nov 27, 2011, 14:36 PM IST

Seoul: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il faces challenges in transferring power to his youngest son, according to South Korea`s top official on cross-border affairs.

"I assume that the power succession is under way, though the internal and external environment is not that good," Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik told Yonhap news agency in an interview published today.

Kim, 69, is believed to have speeded up the succession plan after suffering a stroke in August 2008. In September last year he gave his youngest son Jong-Un senior party posts and appointed him a four-star general, in the clearest sign yet that he is the heir apparent.

Yu, whose comments were confirmed by his ministry, told Yonhap in the interview conducted on Friday that the leader is healthy enough to perform his job. He did not elaborate on Kim`s health or what he meant by an unfavourable environment for the succession.

It is unclear whether the untested Jong-Un, in his late 20s, faces political opposition to what would be the second dynastic succession. Kim senior took power when his own father Kim Il-Sung died in 1994.

The North suffers severe economic problems, exacerbated by sanctions, and persistent serious food shortages. It is also under international pressure to shut down its nuclear weapons programme.

The North is calling for an unconditional resumption of six-party nuclear disarmament talks which it abandoned in April 2009, one month before staging a second atomic weapons test.

PTI