Analysis

Uncertainty in North Korea with Death of Kim Jong Il
Left: August 2011 photo of the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il (AP/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) Right: Kim Jong-Il’s heir apparent Kim Jong-Un. (DMITRY ASTAKHOV/AFP/Getty Images)
December 19, 2011
| Security
| Asia and the Pacific
Summary
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The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the ascension of his third son Kim Jong Un as the new ruler begin a period of great uncertainty for the region and the country. The younger Kim is a political novice and it is unknown to what degree he will actually govern the country or what his policies may be. While some have attributed belligerent acts against South Korea last year to Kim Jong Un trying to establish his credentials – he was named a four-star general last year – his education in Switzerland could possibly lead him to pursue different economic and political policies.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack on December 17.  His death was announced yesterday.  Succession planning for Kim Jong Il began after he suffered a serious stroke in 2008.  In preparation for the eventual day when he has passed on, Kim Jong Il last year anointed his youngest of three sons, Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his late 20s, to take over the mantle of power.  Kim Jong Il also promoted his sister Kim Kyong hui and her husband, Chang Sung Taek, to senior political and military posts, both of whom will play a role in the transition.  Chang Sung Taek could serve as form of regent while the younger Kim gains experience.  Kim Jong Il and his family engineered these promotions to ward off any possible coup attempt after Kim’s death by military leaders. 

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