The Secret State is in the middle of a crisis. Actually, after the fall of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s it has always been in crisis. Having isolated itself from the rest of the world in general and having suffered food shortages because of floods throughout the years, this poor country is far from what it used to be during the Cold War.
Few are the countries that maintain consistent diplomatic relations with the 60-year old country. One of those countries is neighboring China. In my opinion, if it wasn’t for China, North Korea would not exist anymore. China has also played the role of a mediator between North Korea and other countries, especially in the six-party talks the topic of which is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The media has written a lot about North Korea recently because of Kim Jong-il’s poor health. The biggest reason for paying much attention to the Dear Leader’s condition is that he was not present at the ceremony of the 60th anniversary of North Korea on 9 September. Japanese and South Korean intelligence people claim that he is seriously ill.
Is that so or is it because there are speculations about it? I don’t exclude any of the two possibilities. There is speculation in almost everything that happens in the world and even around us. Do you remember the last time you did something unusual in front of your acquaintances? Weren’t their counts exaggerating afterwards? The media is not different at all. In fact, part of the reason why they speculate is to sell their product.
Meanwhile, I don’t exclude their trustworthiness. What they have written about Mr. Kim’s poor health is everything they could get as information. They can’t go to Pyongyang and they can’t interview people from his administration. North Korea is not called the Secret State for no reason.
I think there is not single answer to this question. Yoon Young-kwan, a South Korean former foreign minister discusses a collective leadership in the Democratic People’s Republic as a possibility but can hardly see it as a functional alternative to the current regime because North Korea has always had a one-person dictatorship. Whereas this is a sound reasoning, I don’t completely agree. Here are all the possible outcomes to the future of DPRK that I see:
- Kim Jong-il is in way better health. He actually watched a soccer game on 1 October, according to the country’s state media. If we assume that this is correct, we should refocus our worries on who his next successor can be.
- Kim Jong-il is in a very poor health and there is not much time for him to live in conscience. Depending on his current spirit, he may decide to choose a successor or postpone it. If he decides to go with the second option, he will either indicate his successor later or never indicate a successor thinking that he can dictate things in this country even after death.
- If Kim Jong-il decides to choose a successor, the other people from his administration will support him depending on the comparison between the successor’s and the rest’s greed for power. Since I am sure that they all know that for as long as North Korea exists they will live well and will not face charges against humanity, I don’t think that in this situation the country’s internal stability will be put in jeopardy.
- The country’s leadership after the Dear Leader’s dictatorship is collective. This is the least possible outcome. It is not going to have a bad impact on the country’s existence in the short run because the leaders are going to be united in maintaining the status quo – all with the help of China, of course. However, in the long run I expect that there will be some leaders who want to become the new Kim Il-sung or the new Kim Jong-il. So I think that if Kim Jong-il wants his country to remain what it is right now for years to come, he has to choose a successor sooner or later.
The current political situation in North Korea is not unique in history. Lenin’s and Stalin’s deaths, especially Lenin’s one, are quite similar. Thinking of Lenin’s death, I am wondering who Mr. Kim’s right hand is. Analysts, politicians, please investigate who Kim Jong-il’s right hand is and juggle analysis of both Mr. Kim’s and his personalities. Thus, I believe, you can figure out hypotheses of foreign policies with North Korea and mediator China. Talks with China and Russia are also as important as the hypotheses. Compromises should be made even if South Korea annexes North Korea.