North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is Dead – What’s Next?

Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s “Dear Leader” has died at the age of 69 of an apparent heart attack, while traveling on a train during an inspection tour, presumably of military exercises.   There is a vested interest in the future of North Korea, especially with the naming of Kim Jung Un as Kim Jong Il’s successor.  Kim Jong Un is the youngest son of Kim Jong Il.  He is either 27 or 28 years old, educated in Bern, Switzerland and is assumed to carry on with his father’s medieval policies.


In September 2010, Kim Jong Il unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor, putting him in high-ranking posts.  Even with a successor, there had been some fear among North Korean observers of a behind-the-scenes power struggle or nuclear instability upon the elder Kim’s death.  Few firm facts are available when it comes to North Korea, one of the most isolated countries in the world, and not much is clear about the man known as the “Dear Leader.”  The United States relies heavily on intelligence supplied by South Korea and China.

Kim Jong Il has been a threat to stability in the Asia-Pacific region since he assumed power after the death of his father in 1994.  Under Kim Jong Il, North Korea became a nuclear threat and defied US & allied calls for a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.  The US must now assess whether Kim’s successor, his son Kim Jong Un, will be any less defiant than his father on nuclear matters.

Former US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who led the delegation of the six-party nuclear talks on North Korea, said he believed Kim Jong-un was ”not ready” to take the helm.

Although considered unrelated to Kim Jong Il’s death,   South Korea’s YTN TV reported the firing of a missile by North Korea on

its Eastern coast.   Firing of missiles by the North Korean military is not uncommon.

Brainwashing of the North Korean people that were starved by the regime,  was very apparent as images  are being flashed around the world of the North Korean people mourning their “Dear Leader.”

The named successor, Kim Jong Un is unknown, inexperienced and untested.

Thought to be aged around 27, Kim Jong-un Had already been made a four-star general and occupied a prominent political post when he was reported to have made an important diplomatic visit to neighbouring China in May this year.

On the trip, he introduced himself to the destitute North’s main benefactor, possibly one of the most crucial diplomatic moves he will ever make.

“The rest of the world is going to have to look at someone who is basically a kid as having China’s support to be the North’s next leader,” Yang Moo-min, of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said at the time.

The youngest of the leader’s three sons, Kim was most likely born in 1984. His name in Chinese characters translates as “righteous cloud” while the media calls him “the young general.”

Educated in Switzerland, he is thought to speak English and German, and bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather, the North’s founder, Kim Il-sung.

Analysts say two attacks on the peninsula last year, which killed 50 South Koreans, were aimed at winning the army’s support for a continuation of dynastic rule and underscored an intent to maintain the state’s military-first policy.

Experts say the young Kim is likely to follow the same militaristic path, maintaining a strong grip over one of the world’s largest armies and pressing on with a nuclear weapons programme in the face of international outrage.  National Post

The coming weeks and months will be crucial to see the direction that North Korea is going.  The main player with influence will be China.  The United States in co-operation with China and South Korea will have to monitor the situation closely.  Although Kim Jon Un has a Western education, this has never been a guarantee that positive change will occur.

A Chinese North Korean expert, Zhang  Liangui, at the Beijing Party School, believes that this will be ultimately good news.

“I think it’s ultimately good news.”

“I think it’s good news, because North Korea will finally have to change. Whether those changes will be for the better or the worse, we’ll have to wait and see. But there’s no doubt that change is needed and inevitable.”

“There might be intense power struggles before the situation stabilizes, and only then will any changes in foreign policy become clear.

”I’d estimate that process will take six months to a year.“

About the Author

Karl Gotthardt - Politisite Managing Editor Maj. Gotthardt is a Retired Military Officer with 35 years service in the Canadian Armed Forces. He spent most of his time in the Military in Infantry Battalions. Karl took part in training for Afghanistan as an Operator Analyst with the Canadian Maneouvre Training Centre. Karl is a qualified military parachutist and military free fall parachutist. He earned his U.S. Master Jump Wings in Fort Benning, Georgia. Karl enjoys working with horses for the last 24 year. He owns six. He has experience in breeding, training and of course riding.Karl was born in Germany and is fluent in both English and German and he speaks enough French to "get in trouble". Karl has written or writes at NowPublic, All Voices, Tek Journalism and many others.

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  1. Hello

    The heartrending news of DPRK dear leader kim jong il pass away have worried me a lot! When I was heard his death news from Iran media, my feeling was so damaged!
    Please accept my condolence sincerely!
    One of the most important of the two Korean leaders achievements were Korean people rescuing from long terms imposed belittlement! Their egalitarian, humanitarian ideologies are so sacred and adorable for all of world noble, liberal people especially the oppressed ones! Korean leaders will perpetuate in all of world progressive people memory! They are alike a lodestar for us!
    Dear leader kim jong il never die! His reminiscence remains in world liberal, noble people memory everlasting!
    I submit my so grievous condolence to dear leader family members,DPRK people and all of the world progressive people!
    Please submit my so severe condolence to his third son, his Excellency kim jong oun too!
    I expect the the long term desire Korean people, I mean two Korean reunification process be performed as soon as possible!
    A developed, prosperous Korea is my permanent wish!
    Again I expect you know me as your partner in this heartrending calamity!
    Kaveh yousefzadeh

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