Power struggle between reformists, hardliners raging in North Korea over succession?

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London, Sept 25 (ANI): A fierce battle is being reportedly waged in North Korea between Chang Song-taek, the rogue state's second-in-command, and a group of senior reform-minded officials, as Kim Jong-il prepares to anoint his successor.

According to The Telegraph, the battle between the two sides comes as Kim Jong-il, the 68-year-old "Dear Leader", is in frail health and no concrete succession plan has emerged as yet.

"Sixty-four-year-old Chang is married to Kim's sister and "always believed the crown would be his one day," the paper quoted a source who has recently met people at the highest levels of the North Korean government, as saying.

His ambition may yet be fulfilled, since many observers believe he could take charge of North Korea as a regent while Kim's third son, the 28-year-old Kim Jong-un, gains experience, he added.

However, Chang has recently seen his hardline views being challenged by a group of reformists, bent on opening up the North Korean economy to Chinese-style capitalism.

"There are normal people who know which direction they have to go in. The government does want to open up, and the only thing stopping them from doing so is Chang," the source stated further.

The split in the Workers' Party, which echoes the division in the Chinese Communist party between hardliners and reformists during the 1970s and 1980s, may have prompted the recent two-week delay of the first party conference for nearly 45 years. The conference is now due to begin next week, the paper said.

Meanwhile, the reformists have been bolstered by the return of Pak Pong Ju, the 71-year-old former North Korean premier who had previously advocated economic liberalisation.

Kim Yong Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said that more people might be thinking that they don't have a choice but to use more flexible policies to fix the economy. (ANI)

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