By Hugo Polanco
Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s leader for 17 years died last December. He was an absurd leader of the most reclusive country on Earth. He ruled as a god in North Korea and his every whim was satisfied at a moment’s notice. Beyond being a laughing stock of the international community Kim Jong-il was a dangerous man. His regime’s domestic irresponsibility lead to the deaths of millions of North Koreans during the famines the country faced in the 90’s. Abroad his regime routinely ratcheted up tension with North Korea’s neighbors and the United States to extort aid from them. No one should mourn for his death for he was a cruel vicious leader but as a final joke his death has only bought more uncertainty to North Korea and East Asia. Kim Jong-il and his father before him organized the North Korean state solely to serve the supreme leader. The death of the leader leaves North Korea dangerously close to disintegration. The previous succession occurred with the death of Kim Il-song, the founder of the North Korean state. At the time of his father’s death Kim Jong-il had already passed through decades of grooming to prepare him for the role and used two notorious terror attacks on South Korea to solidify his credentials of leadership. With such a legacy the world is looking nervously on this new succession period. The designated heir is Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s third son. Kim Jong-un was barely designated as heir in 2010 and still in his 20’s. He could easily choose to repeat his father’s method of solidifying control of the country or finally bringing long needed reform to North Korea.
Despite acting recklessly and constantly endangering war across the region, a North Korean collapse is looked upon with dread by neighboring countries. China would lose its valuable buffer that separates it from American friendly South Korea and the 28 thousand American troops stationed there while South Korea would have to bear the considerable costs of rapid reunification. Refugees would likely surge into both these countries and Russia creating a humanitarian crisis. At the moment the succession process appears to be flowing smoothly. Kim Jong-un has been steadily assuming all the positions previously held by his father and grandfather. The latest position he has assumed is Supreme Commander of the military.
The North Korean government has publicly announced that they will continue on with all their previous policies, a ploy to show continuation of authority between Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. The South Korean government initially responded to Kim Jong-il’s death by heightening military readiness, now that the succession appears to progressing without any incidents the South Korean government is attempting to reengage with North with a combination of diplomatic feelers and the promise of aid to its starving citizens. South Korea surely hopes that the death of the dear leader will finally lead to a change in inter-Korean relations and will be using its diplomatic and economic resources to influence the North in this direction. North Korea is still a crazy unpredictable place. Kim Jong-un could easily hold power and continue to rule much as his father and grandfather did, or he could finally bring reform. Also possible are desperate attacks on the South, or chaos and implosion in the North. So as the year starts there are many reasons to continue watching the lonely kingdom of the Kim family
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.