Kim Jong-il relative promoted in reshuffle

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The Independent Online

The brother-in-law of Kim Jong-il was promoted to second in command in the North Korea's leadership, a position that could allow him to become the next ruler or a kingmaker who will decide which of Kim's sons succeeds his father.

The announcement was made after a rare parliamentary session reportedly attended by the reclusive Kim, who is believed to have suffered a stroke two years ago. It was difficult to assess the 68-year-old's health because state-run television only showed a long shot of him, sitting behind a desk.

The rubber-stamp parliament, called the Supreme People's Assembly, usually meets once each year to approve bills vetted by the ruling Workers' Party. The body met in April, and no reason was given for yesterday's unusual second session.

It comes amid worsening economic woes, pressing succession issues and a South Korean campaign to get the United Nations to punish Pyongyang for a ship attack in March that killed 46 sailors. North Korea denies sinking the ship.

The most important promotion involved Kim's in-law, Jang Song Thaek, who already holds immense power as the head of intelligence and the political overlord of the prosecutor's office, the police and the courts. He was promoted to vice-chairman of the all-powerful National Defence Commission.

Married to Kim's younger sister, Jang is believed to be a key backer of the third son, Jong Un, who several analysts think will be his father's eventual successor. Many believe Jang may lead a collective leadership after Kim's death and help groom one of the sons for the top job. AP