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‘Game of Thrones’: The fight for North Korean leadership if Kim Jong-un dies

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is believed to be “gravely ill” after undergoing a medical procedure, according to multiple reports.

South Korean media publication Daily NK reported the news yesterday, and CNN said a US official with direct knowledge was monitoring intelligence on the situation.

While reports out of North Korea are notoriously hard to verify, North Korean specialist and senior lecturer at the International College of Management Sydney, Dr Leonid Petrov, said the news comes as no surprise.

“It looks like Kim Jong-un is either sick, or has decided to go for an elective surgery … but his health is not great, it’s obvious from his pictures,” he told 3AW’s Ross and John.

“It’s clear from his lifestyle; too much alcohol, too many cigarettes, chain smoking, not much exercise and great stress, if you deal with thermonuclear weapons and ballistic missiles one day you are going to end up in the bed of a hospital!”

Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be 35-years-old, has two or three young children, with the oldest said to be a boy aged about 10.

He also has an older brother, Kim Jong-nam, and a younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, who has recently ascended to become the second most important figure in the North Korean regime.

But it is unclear who will rule North Korea if Kim Jong-un is incapacitated or dies.

“In the country, which is ruled by the dictatorial will of the dictator, much actually depends on their surroundings,” Dr Petrov said.

“That’s why purges are constantly happening in North Korea, even Kim Jong Un’s late uncle was purged.

“It’s a constant Game of Thrones type of activity.”

The dictator’s family are not the only ones in power in the country, with the Korean Workers’ Party and the Korean Peoples’ Army, as well as the secret police, also playing key roles in the dictatorship.

Dr Petrov said “much will depend on the balance of power” between those parties when it comes to determining a new leader.

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Image: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty