Monday, December 19, 2011

The Dictator Is Dead, Long Live The Dictator

The world is minus yet another megalomaniacal dictator with blood stained hands. According to news reports from North Korea, Kim Jong Il's 17 year reign as the Dear Leader ended when he died Saturday of natural causes. Over a year ago, Kim named as his successor his youngest son, 28 year old Kim Jong Un.

 North Korea is a communist police state founded on a cult of personality so potent it would have made Stalin jealous. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, though it maintains a very large military and it has nuclear weapons. North Korea has historically been quite aggressive. In 1950, it invaded South Korea, prompting American intervention. When the war concluded two years later along roughly the same line of demarcation, North Korea refused to agree to peace with South Korea. North Korea has since engaged in numerous provocative acts aimed at its democratic neighbor to the south, including most recently the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel and the shelling of civilians on South Korea's Yeonpyong Island.

The below video gives a good four minute introduction to the nightmare that is North Korea

What will happen in North Korea now is anyone's guess. I lived in South Korea for five years, spending a significant part of that time stationed on the DMZ. I became very familiar with the intelligence surrounding North Korea, such as it was. When Kim Il Sung died, I did not think that Kim Il Jung, a much lesser figure, would be able to successfully consolidate power. And indeed, given how mecurial and unstable Kim Jong Il was, I thought there a high likelihood that he would attempt another invasion of South Korea as a last ditch effort to salvage his failing nation. Obviously I was wrong.  Thankfully so, as renewed war in the Koreas would have a body count well into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.  It would make Iraq look like a cakewalk.

As it stands today, North Korea's economy, always weak, is in free fall with near starvation - the typical diet is 700 calories per day - being the daily reality of life. Kim Jong Un, at age 28 and with no military experience, is himself a much lesser figure than even his father. Moreover, North Korea's military has apparently gone into severe decline over the past decade because of the poor economy.

 So what happens now? That is anyone's guess. But my money is against anything good happening any time soon.

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