After Kim Jong-il

Published: December 22, 2011

North Korean television announced that 69-year old leader Kim Jong-il had died of mental and physical stress. PHOTO: REUTERS

As the international community and regional stakeholders look to take advantage of the small window of opportunity to reform the ‘hermit kingdom’ following Kim Jong-il’s death, it seems premature to predict a “Pyongyang Spring” in the making.

As a New York Times editor who visited the country a few years back put it, the regime under Kim Jong-il might be the most totalitarian in the history of mankind. Unlike Stalin, Kim Jong-il took advantage of emerging technologies to perpetuate the regime’s propaganda unlike no other while blocking its use for his citizens and keeping them isolated from the rest of the world.

North Korea is quite different from the regimes found in the Arab world and far less vulnerable to the challenge of civil society. Unlike countries who witnessed the spring of revolution this year, the citizens of North Korea carry the badge of being the most isolated in the world. They have no access to the social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter which played a huge part in organising and guiding protests in the revolutions in the Arab world. The odds that the regime could be eclipsed by a power struggle in the wake of Kim Jong-il’s death remain low as the isolationist state which exercises control over many aspects of the nation’s culture is once again perpetuating a cult of personality around the 29-year-old heir apparent, similar to when Kim Jong-il inherited the country’s leadership after his father’s death.

However, what can be said with certainty is that there is no certainty in what will follow in one of the most secretive states in the world. To think that the international community can jump in to save the day from a nuclear-armed state with suicidal tendencies would be naïve. After all, South Korean and US officials weren’t even aware of the enigmatic North Korean leader’s death 48 hours after the fact.

At best, what should be expected from regional and global stakeholders is a show of respect for the demise of a head of state, to steer clear of any inflammation of tensions in the region and also to keep assumptions of any escalation or a show of force by the North Koreans at a bare minimum as they could very well lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

hassan.khan

Hassaan Khan

A sub-editor on the national desk of The Express Tribune. He graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Cynical

    In Kim we had a great friend,philosopher and guide.
    He was the undisputed leader of the ‘poor and hungry people (with nuclear bomb)’.
    He has shown the world that ‘being poor’ is no excuse for not having a nuclear bomb.
    There should be a national mourning.Recommend

  • J

    ^Hahahahaha! Why are we so reverent of the tyrants? Recommend

  • Cynical

    @J

    Because we are genetically so designed (should I say destined).Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    Man with the cause not a puppy like pakistanRecommend

  • Yasir Mehmood

    Pakistan is a North Korea-Afghanistan combo in the making.Recommend

  • Sk

    What I was reading in western newspaper is that another evil is gone and americans are commenting everywhere that N.Koreans are mourning as they are brainwashed. Here I ask to americans they have access to international news/media then why are they so brainwashed and believe only what their CIA and govt. lie about. We cannot blame N.Koreans, these people are totally isolated but americans are free so why they act so ignorant and show so much hate to rest of the world? Sorry americans I’ve never seen hopeless and brainwashed nation like you. I rather have a respect for North Koreans as they left alone but still work hard and even having no food and proper training, they were successful to send their national team for football world cup.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    What people don’t see and what they can’t interact with, becomes their fear. Anyone can tell what ever about it. I can’t understand how can we as humans isolate humans let alone the whole nation then pass judgement on what they are crying for, when they have lost their leader. Now when Kim Jong-Ill has passed a little research should be done of what he was for real and why are people crying from him. I agree with this blog completely. Recommend