The world has been abuzz for the past few days with yet another potentially shocking turn of events in 2020, after concerns of World War III with Iran, a global pandemic that still continues to grip the world coming from China, reports now indicate that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may either be dead or in a severe coma that he will not wake up from. Reports have varied, with several American outlets reporting he is either dead or incapacitated which is backed by outlets in Japan and Hong Kong. South Korea has denied the claims, and no government official from any of these nations has confirmed either way.
While many celebrate the death of the brutal tyrant, who like his family members before him is known for severe oppression and brainwashing of the North Korean people and the brutal murder of anyone who even thinks to oppose them, many are skeptical this is actually cause for celebration. Given the Hermit Kingdom’s nature of secrecy and the sudden potential death of the 36 year old leader, the line of succession is relatively unclear.
When Kim Jong Il died, it was clear his son Kim Jong Un would take over. Il was older and had severe health problems, and had been grooming his young son to step up. Kim Jong Un however has not done anything of the sort. Kim Jong Un’s oldest child is rumored to be around 10, not old enough to rule, and the other male sibling of Un does not live in North Korea and is not interested in leading the nation.
This leaves other possibilities that are not exactly ideal for the international community. The most common speculation currently centers around Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong. The world may remember Kim Yo Jong from her trip to the Winter Olympics where she grabbed the attention of the international news media. But rumors from North Korea indicate that Kim Yo Jong could actually be even more brutal than her brother, father and grandfather. And while she remains the most likely to continue to dynasty, it is important to remember that North Korea is a patriarchal society, and may not accept a woman in power.
Other possibilities lie in Kim Jong Un’s inner circle, many of whom are hardliners or military officials. Since they are not from the ruling family, it would be difficult to see any of them easing tensions within the nation or in the international community out of fear for losing their new found power.
Another possibility, though more far reaching, is that China could have an impact in the leadership shuffle, either by propping up their own favorite or attempting to pull North Korea in altogether.
Either way, as strange as it sounds, the death of Kim Jong Un wouldn’t exactly be something for the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Russia, Japan and South Korea to celebrate. It is unlikely a successor would continue nuclear talks like Kim Jong Un has with President Trump, meaning a new leader could set Korean relations back at least nearly a decade. But with mixed signals coming from North Korea, it appears either the Hermit Kingdom’s head isn’t actually dead, or the high command are trying their best to unify for their next leader and prevent any sign of weakness from being shown to the world. But if it was the latter, I would expect more visible movement from North Korea’s military.
As with the death of any tyrant, a potential death of Kim Jong Un puts the world in a very strange position. What happens with the nuclear talks? With the North’s relationships with the South and China? If Kim Jong Un were older, there would likely be a clearer contingency plan in place, but for now we will have to wait for any trickle of information to come from the most secretive nation on Earth.
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