Kim Jong-un as an undisputed leader of North Korea?

What kind of scenario do you expect for the North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-il? More repressions, some liberalization of the regime, playing the nuclear card even more?


Charles Armstrong, Associate Professor of Korean Studies, Director of the Center for Korean Research, Columbia University

In the next few weeks and months we can expect North Korea to focus on internal matters as the regime works on the transition of power from Kim Jong Il to his son Kim Jong Un. It is not likely there will be any major change in its domestic politics or economy.After this transition period North Korea may resume talks with the US over its nuclear program and perhaps become more engaged with other countries including South Korea and Japan.

In the long run, it is not yet clear what kind of leader Kim Jong Un will be or even if he will really be in charge. For now, there will probably be a collective caretaker leadership led by senior officials in the Korean Workers’ Party and the military. The regime will probably not be any less repressive, but it may embark in some limited economic reform and opening. But there are man unknown factors, including the possibility of power struggles within the ruling elites and even some protest from below by ordinary North Koreans.

Christoph Bluth, Professor of International Studies, University of Leeds

There is likely to be a prolonged power struggle as the various players in the hierarchy will seek to establish their position. We cannot expect any further liberalization as none in the political elite is pushing for that, rather a further hardening to prevent instability. There is not much NK can do with the nuclear card but further provocations of the South are a real possibility for the new leadership to prove itself.

Kim Jong-eu is young and inexperienced. Although formally he is the successor, he does not yet have the power base or the skill at political manipulation his father had. Consequently he will be a much weaker leader than his father.

Hazel Smith, Professor of Security and Resilience, Cranfield University

In the short term I expect a stable transition as the military are firmly in control. The son is a figurehead for the military but the Kim family interests will be represented by Kim Jong Il’s brother in law who sits on the National Defence Commission which is the ruling executive body of the state.

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