The Role of the Military in the Fall of the Ceausescu Regime and the Possible Relevance for a Post-Kim Jong-il Transition in North Korea


In September 2008, reports began to circulate in the world media that Chairman Kim Jong-il might be in serious condition after having suffered a stroke, and discussion on possible post-Kim Jong-il transition scenarios in North Korea once again made the headline news. For a few months, plausible post-Kim Jong-il transition scenarios spanned a broad range, from military or collective rule to the hereditary transfer of power to Kim Jong-il’s eldest son Jong-nam, youngest son Jong-un, or to brother-in-law Chang Sung-taek, under some type of protectorate, to total collapse of the regime, similar to the fall of Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989. Following immediately after the “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia and the more peaceful and orderly transition in other Eastern European countries, the violence of developments in Romania was shocking. Of all post-Kim Jong-il era scenarios, the worst-case scenario would seem to be a Romanian-style regime downfall, involving a country on the brink of civil war, the total collapse of authority, chaos, and bloodshed, and raising the specter of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical and bacteriological arsenal being on the loose. 

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