By Tae Hyun Yoon
SEOUL, South Korea – As the North Korean state media reported infamous leader Kim Jong Il’s death, Asian stocks plummeted and panicked South Korean officials hurriedly organized an emergency meeting to discuss what to do in case of a sudden attack.
The unprecedented event struck fear into the minds of many people, and the possible repercussions range from a civil war to a stable transition for Kim Jong Un, the dictator’s son.
For many of us, the most pressing question is: how would we continue to maintain international security after this incident?
Right now, Kim Jong Un is quickly preparing for his transition from ‘Great Successor’ to ‘Great Leader’ of North Korea. He must focus on first achieving stability in order to ensure a safe hand-down of authority from his deceased father.
The state media in North Korea is trying to make the transition of power look smooth and stable, but in reality, things might not go so smoothly for Kim Jong Un. Compared to Kim Jong Il, who had a full 23 years under his father’s leadership learning how to manage political affairs, the 29-year-old Kim Jong Un has had barely more than a single year to hastily prepare himself for the role of dictator.
While his father had enough time to gain the respect of party members and military officials, Kim Jong Un will inevitably suffer lack of faith from his subjects, who are mainly older than him. Furthermore, Kim Jong Un has not had the time to prove his entitlement to the position of Great Leader, and has gained influence solely through his father, who is now deceased.
Considering these setbacks, North Korea has some serious problems ahead. A rare party struggle may actually occur in this otherwise one-minded state, in which older Workers’ Party members fight against the young Kim Jong Un for power.
These elder members have a good chance of overthrowing Kim’s Regime, because they have the respect of military officials with whom they have worked for many decades. Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law, Chang Sung Taek, is a perfect example of one such individual; at age 65, he has experience on his side and has served 29 years as a senior party member. He also has the respect of others who may be able to renounce the current regime.
Furthermore, Kim Jong Il’s fourth wife, Kim Ok, is also expected to play an important role in her stepson’s transition, and her taste for power may result in her using the younger Kim as a puppet, controlling North Korea by herself in reality. If this occurs, the military may be divided between loyalists to Kim Jong Un’s regime and dissidents that hold allegiance to other party members, leading to a huge civil conflict that may spread tensions across the world.
If some countries try to support the contemporary government, and others attempt to help the insurgents gain power, the world may erupt into violent conflicts, and even war.
We must prepare for what is ahead to ensure international stability. In order to assume control over the whole of North Korea, the new regime will need support from other nations.
Provided that we help the young successor gain power, we can slowly convince him to introduce a free market to his nation and disable his nuclear program step-by-step in Six-Party talks. Taking things slowly from there would be the best way to avoid international trouble.
While it may seem convenient, mere observation may cause us to head towards some serious unrest.
If we sit back and watch as bystanders, the instability in the Korean peninsula could kill us all in a global war.