Arranging smooth successions has been the bane of despots since the dawn of history – and today’s North Korea is a perfect example.
Does the death of Kim Jong-il mean the beginning of the end of the Kim dynasty? Columnist Sohn Gwang-joo of South Korea’s Daily North Korea explains why contradictions in the system coupled with the inexperience of the country’s new despot make it highly unlikely that the Kim dynasty will long survive the Pyongyang shark tank.
For the Daily North Korea, columnist Sohn Gwang-joo writes in small part:
If the transfer of power to Kim Jong-un is a fait accompli, then what critical issues are left to decide? Of course it is the question of Kim Jong-un’s leadership ability – and there is plenty of doubt about that. The fate of 24 million North Koreans depends on his capacity to lead the country. The future of the entire Korean Peninsula and South Korean policy toward the North depends on his leadership. No matter how much China and the U.S. hope for North Korean stability under Kim Jong-un, they have no capacity whatsoever to manage internal problems that arise in North Korea.
Furthermore, no matter how great China’s influence over the Pyongyang leadership may be, will Beijing truly be able to order around its new leaders as if they were serfs? Kim Jong-il had some fitting words of wisdom on this point: “One embedded Soviet or Chinese dog is more dangerous than ten Yankee imperial agents.”
Under Kim Jong-un, the system based on an all-powerful leader will no longer be possible. The system of absolute dedication to the father Kim Il-sung and his successor Kim Jong-il is all but at an end. Although he is referred to as the “leader”, there really isn’t anyone that Kim Jong-un can absolutely command. To maintain the system of absolute leadership of the masses that has existed up to now, Kim Jong-un would need to maintain the strict top down hierarchy that his father and grandfather fashioned.
However, the people that Kim Jong-un would hope to lead have already left him for the market. For most people in Hamkyung, Yangkang, Jagang and Pyongan provinces, private markets has become the central means of survival. In the minds of these people, images of a father-like leader and a loving, caring, maternal Worker’s Party have already disappeared without a trace.
All Kim Jong-unz has left in his control is Pyongyang’s privileged class, and even they are tied to him out of concern for their own interests rather than any ideological solidarity. It is a marriage of convenience. Naturally, these people aren’t all going to suddenly disappear, but if and when they do, Kim Jong-un will be left without anyone to command.
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