The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Speculation surrounds North Korea succession process

For only the second time in North Korean history, the totalitarian regime may be pursuing a course of leadership succession, according to the BBC. The current leader, Kim Jong-il, is passing power on to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un.The possibility of North Korean succession has been weighing on the minds of the international community since the country’s de facto ruler Kim Jong-il’s health began deteriorating in 2008.

Due to the lack of verifiable information out of North Korea, hard facts have been unavailable to the Western press. Little is known about the intentions of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Recent events, however, have brought the country’s leadership under keen examination on an international stage.

The Telegraph, a North Korean news agency, confirmed that Kim Jong-il had been to China to meet with Hu Jintao, the president of China.

The news agency also quoted Kim Jong-il in a speech, saying that a “steadily developing the friendship (between North Korea and China) through the generations is an important issue in defending peace and security.”

According to the Telegraph, it is widely believed that Kim Jong-un accompanied his father on this trip to China, and political analysts are beginning to think that Kim Jong-il will soon announce his youngest son as next in line for power.
Many have questioned why Kim Jong-il would name his youngest son as his successor. According to the BBC, speculations suggest that Kim Jong-un’s two older brothers have fallen out of favor with their father.

While Kim Jong-il continues to remain low profile in the political arena, the Telegraph states that he is about 27 years old and Swiss-educated. According to the Associated Press, Kim Jong-un has been described as the spitting image of his father, both in appearance and personality.

While the West struggles to find out more about this young potential leader, one question remains predominant; what will his leadership mean for North Korea and the rest of the world?

“How his successor would approach politics is unimportant to (Kim Jong-il),” said Associate Professor of Political Science George Guo, who specializes in comparative and East Asian politics. “What is important is that he maintains the people’s loyalty.”

Leaders in the international community have expressed hope that change in North Korean leadership could be positive.
On Sept. 8, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented, “The most important issue for us is . . . to try to convince who’s ever in leadership in North Korea that their future would be far better served by denuclearizing.”

Whether North Korea will denuclearize under new leadership remains to be seen. Other implications of leadership are equally uncertain.

Guo commented that North Korea could become more of a troublemaker, but also said, “(Kim Jong-un) might pursue economic reform, become more open, especially to China, and learn from the Chinese model.”According to Guo, China is the key for any new leadership in North Korea. Without Chinese support, the new leadership in North Korea would not be able to last.

“Whenever you get in trouble politically, economically, militarily, you need an ally to help,” Guo said. “For North Korea, China is that ally.”

The international stage will be invariably affected by North Korea’s future leadership. With North Korea’s future uncertain, the world will continue to watch Pyongyang.

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