What will come from new leadership in North Korea?
Enigmatic North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died at the age of 69, and he was to be succeeded by his youngest and untested son, Kim Jong-un, who was largely unknown to the international community. Given North Korean’s history as an isolated and militaristic state, the transition of power presents many questions about the country’s future. Natalie Bormann, an academic specialist in Department of Political Science at Northeastern University discussed how Kim Jong-un is perceived within North Korea and globally, and whether he’ll be able to maintain his leadership of the regime.
When asked if is she anticipating any significant changes under Kim Jong-un’s rule, and what will it take for him to hold onto power, she opined that it is often the nature with unquestioned, dynastic transfers of power, there is a sense that Kim Jong-un is ill prepared to deal with the domestic and international challenges facing the world’s most repressive and unpredictable regime. The parts of his life those are actually “public” — most are shrouded in secrecy, such as his age — sound as flattering as they are improbable. It would appear that he is not only fluent in several languages, but is brilliant in all things military and strategic. All the same, he only had his political debut just over a year ago and clearly lacks political experience. Considering this, he is merely the figurehead of the existing regime run by members of the military and the ruling party, and thus a significant change in the political tone seems unlikely.
Lastly, the death of Kim Jong-il is concerning in other, more subtle, ways. We have come to exclusively “access” North Korea through, and reduce it to, its leadership, of which we say it has been irrational and dangerous. However, the focus ought to be more on the region, and less on the individual. North Korea constitutes a buffer in a region of very powerful neighbors who do not trust each other very much. From that perspective, Kim Jong-un is the least of a long list of other concerns.