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Not all North Koreans support the succession process underway from leader Kim Jong-il to his youngest son but chances remain slim for collective action against the regime, a former top U.K. envoy to the Stalinist state said Wednesday.

“As far as I can tell, there is not universal support for this (succession) process,” Peter Hughes told a debate hosted by the Kwanhun Club, a fraternity of senior Korean journalists. He was in Seoul shortly after wrapping up his three-year stint as U.K. ambassador to Pyongyang.

Hughes said while it remained exceedingly difficult to interact with citizens, the embassy gauged sentiment by speaking with NGOs and international organizations working there that have better access.

Last September, Kim Jong-un emerged as heir apparent when he was given four-star general status and made vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party.

Some believe that low support from the populace could present a challenge to the process and that a greater flow of information, including through the state’s growing mobile phone network, raises chances for a popular uprising.

Citizens were also “very concerned” in 2009 after the regime revalued its currency in an apparent bid to squelch a bourgeoning market system, causing “uncertainty and difficulty.”

But the envoy said the possibility of an uprising similar to recent examples in the Middle East and North Africa remained low due to the regime’s pervasive clampdown on information.

“There is no civil society, no center of dissent, no intellectual grouping, no way of communicating outside of mobile phones,” he said. “Most people ... who have a mobile phone are very careful of what they say because they believe everything is being listened to.”

The United Kingdom opened diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 2000 amid warming inter-Korean ties. It wants the North to address its human rights record and return to multilateral denuclearization talks.

Hughes said there were signs of Jong-un becoming more powerful.

“It has become a habit at national events to propose a toast to the health of Kim Jong-il and the Young General Kim Jong-un,” he said, but added the succession was “not an issue for discussion.”

On the North’s nuclear program, Hughes said it remains a major concern for his country given its proliferation activities and potential to destabilize U.K. economic interests in the region.

Hughes said high-ranking officials expressed their view that if Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi had not relinquished his nuclear weapons program, he would still be in power.

“The regime has made it very clear that its overriding policy is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. You have to look behind that to find out what it means. It means, in real terms, that there would have to be denuclearization of the world before it gives up its nuclear weapons.

The envoy said the embassy has been able to make some inroads in the education sphere and people-to-people contacts, citing an English language training program and a visit by a British female soccer team last year.

“These types of activity reach out to North Korean people at all levels throughout the country, introduces them to the British way of life and our values and undoubtedly opens their eyes of many to the realities of western society,” he said.

On living in Pyongyang, the envoy said he noticed “cosmetic” changes such as a greater number of cars and the presence of more colorful and stylish clothing. “But fundamentally there have been no changes in terms of ideology or policy,” he added.