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[Editorial] Preparing for a Post-Kim Jong Il North Korea

[Editorial] Preparing for a Post-Kim Jong Il North Korea

Posted September. 11, 2008 09:05,   


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il failed to appear at North Korea’s ceremony to commemorate the Stalinist country`s 60th anniversary. The international community has subsequently paid keen attention to Kim’s health and the North’s future. South Korea also says Kim is certain to have health problems. His health could likely cause unexpected changes in the North and rattle inter-Korean relations and order in Northeast Asia. Seoul must rush to confirm the rumor surrounding Kim’s health, and also come up with effective measures to deal with the worst-case scenario.

If Kim has serious health problems, this will prove to be a bigger shock to North Koreans than the death of his father and predecessor Kim Il Sung in 1994. Since Kim Jong Il had served as the heir apparent since 1974, his father`s death did not result in drastic change to the communist nation’s power structure and political system. Now, however, North Korea has more challenging issues. Though Kim Jong Il has three sons, none of them is considered the nation’s next leader. Given that, Kim Jong Il’s death will result in a power vacuum and political instability. Worse, the North could experience bloodshed.

Kim Jong Il disappeared from public view for 49 days in 2003 when the United States attacked Iraq. His latest absence has lasted 15 days. Considering Kim Yong Nam, the North`s second-in-power, denied reports that Kim Jong Il is ill, the North Korea leader could appear in public again. Given his age of 66 and medical history, however, the North will likely face changes soon. The only question is if the changes will be gradual or drastic.

The latest developments could create both opportunity and threat for South Korea. The German example of reunification could serve as a good model. Western Germany has greatly suffered due to a mass exodus of people from the former East Germany. Both sides, however, have overcome difficulty and reunited with the help of the United States, the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France.

If North Korea goes through drastic changes, the international community will also intervene. Neighboring nations should prepare to peacefully handle a post-Kim Jong Il North Korea and push for a reunified Korean Peninsula. For its part, South Korea should strengthen its national security and draw a consensus on a reunified Korea.