Maintaining a Rogue Regime: Kim Jong-il and the North Korean Succession Process
In Northeast Asia and the United States during the later months of 2008 a great deal of attention was paid to the health of Kim Jong-il. Rumors of a stroke, possible partial incapacitation, and even coma were rampant in both policy and press circles. The issue of Kim’s health is extremely important because Pyongyang’s reclusive leader has ruled the country since 1994 with a unique blend of Confucian “divide and conquer,” a reliance on the military, and a larger-than-life persona among his people that can reasonably be called contrived hero worship. This style of rule has thus far left no deﬁnitive succession process in place designating who will rule the country should Kim pass from the scene. The future of North Korea has thus become a matter of concern to analysts and policymakers in both the United States and key nations in Northeast Asia. Thus, this paper will review important events that occurred during 2008 and the ﬁ rst half of 2009, analyze the North Korean government in light of how the governmental setup might affect the succession process, and then will outline some possible scenarios for what may occur in the future.