Could Death of Kim Jong-il Signify New Dawn for North Korea?
The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been announced today causing shockwaves around the world as the political consequences are so unstable. Kim Jong-il, 69, is reported to have died on a train after suffering a heart attack on Saturday, although his death was only declared today. His third son Kim Jong-un has been named successor and today we ask whether the death of Kim Jong-il could signify a new dawn for North Korea.
Scenes of mass grief from North Korea are being shown on television and the volatile situation is being closely monitored by world governments. BBC News reports that South Korea has placed its armed forces on alert while the government of Japan is holding a special security meeting. Meanwhile, China a close ally of North Korea pledged to contribute to efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. The White House issued a statement to say that the US was “committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies” and that the situation is being closely monitored.
Last year Kim Jong-un was revealed as his father’s likely successor and this position would have been reinforced further next year. Little is known about him except that he was educated in Switzerland, is in his twenties and is Kim Jong-il’s third son from his reported ‘favorite wife’ Ko Yong-hui. Sky News says that Kim Jong-un has been described as “shy and uncommunicative” and also reports that |it remains to be seen if he can retain the firm grip his father had over the country, and most importantly, its military.”
The transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his preferred successor is likely to bring unstable times, not only to North Korea but to other countries waiting to see which direction Kim Jong-un takes the country in. One analyst, Professor Lee Jung-hoon, who specializes in international relations at Seoul’s Yonsei University said, “We have to be very worried because whenever there is domestic instability North Korea likes to find an external situation to divert the attention away from that – including indulging in provocation.”
However there is also the possibility that Kim Jong-il’s successor could bring more stability. William Hague, Britain’s Foreign Secretary pointed out that it could in fact be a “turning point” in which North Korea could begin to have closer relations with the rest of the international community. US officials believe that there will not any immediate major changes to policy in North Korea until after the official period of mourning. Although government’s are being cautious in their initial responses to Kim Jong-il’s death some were not so diplomatic. US congressman Don Manzullo described Kim Jong-il as the “epitome of evil” and described him as a dictator handing out misery to his people, according to Sky News. However Manzullo also noted the possibility of change in North Korea saying, “We hope his passing will mark a new chapter for North Korea. This is an opportunity for North Korea to emerge from its cycle of oppression and walk down a new path toward democracy. We will be watching closely.”
Kim Jong-il’s funeral will take place on December 28 and national mourning has been declared until December 29. The world will be watching as this situation develops over future days, weeks and months and we gain some initial impressions of Kim Jong-un and how he will rule North Korea. We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think Kim Jong-un could seize the opportunity to form closer relationships between North Korea and other international communities? Maybe that’s simply being over-optimistic? Let us know by sending us your comments.
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