Breaking: North Korea’s Kim Jong II dead at 69

News that Kim Jong-il, the enigmatic leader of impoverished North Korea, died of a heart attack on Saturday has ripped through one of the last truly communist countries like a monsoon this morning. The late dictator was 69 years-old. Presidents, prime-ministers, and monarchs are watching intently to see what now becomes of the world’s most isolated nation. So far it’s a grief-fest:

(Telegraph) — There was wariness about where North Korea goes now under Kim Jong-il’s son, but Britain, France and Germany voiced tentative hope for a new dawn at the end of a tumultuous year that has seen regimes topple across the Middle East. The “Dear Leader”, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), “passed away from a great mental and physical strain” at 8:30am on Saturday (23.30 GMT Friday) while travelling by train on one of his field trips. It urged people to support the Swiss-educated Kim Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s and was last year made a four-star general and given top ruling party posts despite having had no public profile.

There’s a lot of speculation on what happens next, and Odin knows I’m no expert on North Korea. Could this mark the unofficial end of the Korean War and eventual reunification of that torn peninsula? What would that mean to South Korea, to China, and the world?

Oh, and sorry about the lack of posts over the weekend. I did some well earned vacationing and I guess I didn’t understand the ghost scheduling feature as well as I should.


  1. VeritasKnight says

    Kim’s son, Kim Jong-un has been seen as being very weak by several people – he was still in the “being groomed” phase of getting ready to take over North Korea, so it’s unknown how much power he actually has or is ready to take. A lot of the power may go to Kim’s brother-in-law, Chang Sung-taek, who was pretty much the #2 in Korea.

    However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the military is loyal to anyone. As is often the case in these sorts of states, the military will probably choose the successor – they likely will not directly oppose the younger Kim, but may remove Chang in favour of a new regent from the military (perhaps Ri Yong-ho, who was a favourite of Kim, or someone else, never can tell).

    Of course, any move by a military faction would likely trigger a civil war.

    All I know for sure is that the folks in South Korea have to be biting their nails nervously. There’s two very possible outcomes: war with South Korea (bad) or unification with South Korea (worse). And if you know what happened when West and East Germany united, you know what South Korea’s in for if they join up – except a hundred times worse, given the relative destruction of the North by Kim’s regime to save face.

  2. Yoritomo says

    I cannot see how reunification could be worse than war. The North probably has the military capabilities to lay waste to Seoul, and who knows what they can do with the few nuclear weapons they may possess. At best, a war with the South is likely to end in a total breakdown of the North and possible reunification after both countries are severely damaged.

    Reunification would be an enormous strain on the South’s resources. The North is in much worse shape than East Germany ever was, and the South isn’t quite as economically powerful as pre-Unification West Germany was. Possibly the ideological differences are greater, too. But all those problems are surely preferable to deliberately wracking all of Korea. And the benefits are not too shabby, either. I only wonder where China’s interests in all this lie – they might actually prefer the status quo.

  3. noastronomer says

    Reunification worse than war? Err, no. Since war would almost certainly be followed by reunification. So you have all the bad stuff that goes along with a war (mass murder, rape, destruction of infrastructure etc) followed by all the costs of re-unification.

    My personal opinion is if the leadership transition goes bad it’s going to take some time to play out. At least weeks. Probably months.

    The biggest risk is that the game of brinksmanship that North Korea has engaged in for the past 60+ years explodes into all out war. The problem with brinksmanship of course is that sometimes you step over the brink. Needling the South has long been a way to show strength in the North. However the South is in no mood for that any more.

    Anti-north feeling in the South is at a level unmatched since the cease-fire. Following the Cheonan sinking and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island South Korea made it clear that any further provocation would likely draw a significant military response. The only conceivable result of that would be war.

  4. Crudely Wrott says

    I bet one quatloo that the kid bolts.

    I bet two quatoos that the kid dances like a puppet.

    If their are any takers, I’ll bet a further three quatoos that he does both. The latter first, you know.

    While not very likely, any of the above scenarios is not out of reason. This is, of course, because the North Korean leadership is out of reason and because as of now Jong Un is not, repeat, not, part of that cabal.

    Meanwhile, people go without awareness of the world at large. Some make flour from tree bark. Some have even grown knowledgeable about the relative nutritional values of various grasses. All this while some drink brandy, go on long train trips and attend meetings.

    On second thought, I’ll bet a full five quatloos that withing the next four years that NK leadership will have either elicited meaningful [read: meaningful] international reaction or will have self destructed. That there may be no functional difference between the two outcomes is a mere detail. Any takers?

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