After Kim Jong Il

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in December surprised his people and the world. The question is: What now? In this Global Asia essay, Yonsei University professors John Delury and Moon Chung In consider the implications of the passing of the Dear Leader. “For years, political analysts and military planners have discussed ‘contingency plans’ for after the death of Kim Jong Il,” they conclude. “But now, with Kim actually dead and no sign of chaos or collapse, what we need is prudent and realistic diplomacy that lays foundations today for progress tomorrow.” Read the entire article here.

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  1. I was probably the only person in the West who cursed the death of Kim Jong Il. Having been accepted to take part in an exchange to Pyongyang this summer, the passing away of the Dear Leader came at precisely the wrong moment: my holiday plans were ruined!

    Joking aside, this is indeed a huge moment for the international community apropos North Korea. I agree with the article that there is the opportunity for a ‘Nixon moment’ here. Following Construcitivst IR theory, which states that how a state treats a rival has a knock on effect on how that state perceives its own identity, we should welcome the chance to ‘reset the clock’ so to speak, and engage the DPRK along different lines. It does not matter whether anything has actually changed within the country; what matters is the symbolic moment in front of us, and the potential we have to turn such a moment into genuinely progressive dialogue.

    The ‘honeymoon period’ where this is possible will not last for long. Let us hope policymakers seize the moment.

  2. Danny

     /  03/02/2012

    I agree to the conclusion that the future of North Korea is ,to a large extent ,dependent on the solution of the Security VS Prosperity Dilemma. However, if we compare the current situation in North Korea to that in China when Chairman Mao died, the reflection of “Two Whatever” policy adopted by Mao’s successor Hua Guofeng may throw doubt on the “honey moon period” or “Nixon Moment” assumption in North Korea.
    Admittedly, the death of Kim Yong Il opens the channel for change. But the ability of the regime to change is weakened rather than strenghtened after his death. Whenever the adjustment of the military-first policy initiates, it will inevitablely face the opposition of the interest group, especially the military force. To overcome such objection and political strains requires a firm base of political power, which Kim Yong Un who only has 2 years of on-the-job training heavily lacks. So even though Kim Yong Un has the will to do some adjustment, constrained by the political ability, the posibility to implement reform is slim. Kim Yong Un may adopt a more safe policy currently to continue his father’s military-first strategy, like what Hua Guofeng didi in China.
    So is the “Nixon Moment” really coming now? It is really hard to say.


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