Will the demise of a tyrant cause stability or uncertainty in Asia?

Kim Jong-Il died at the age of 69 on 17th December; an autopsy confirmed that he had suffered from a fatal heart attack. The “Dear Leader” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine and it was also believed that he had suffered from diabetes and heart disease.   It was also reported that he had suffered from a stroke in 2009.

The news of his death was announced on North Korean state television on the 19th December.  It was also announced that Kim Jong-Il’s third son, Kim Jong Un, will take over as his father’s successor.

The sudden death of such a powerful leader has had an impact around the world and there are many different opinions about the effects of his demise.  Many people think the death of an oppressive dictator, who reportedly had an appalling human rights record and a nuclear arsenal at his command, will cause stability within the country and throughout the region and rest of the world.  However the fact is that his death has caused extreme uncertainty regarding North Korea.  Kim Jong Un is due to take over as Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).  However, there is a possibility of a power struggle and a large amount of uncertainty about how Kim Jong Un will act as leader if he does in fact become leader.

The news of Kim Jong-Il’s death has caused a large amount of worry in North East Asia.  The demise of the leader of one of the world’s most unpredictable regimes has caused neighbouring countries to be on full military alert and it has also caused the stock markets in Asia to fall.

Since hearing the news the South Korean President Lee Myung Bak ordered an emergency political meeting and put its military on highest alert.  He has also talked with Barack Obama via telephone and both leaders have agreed to keep a close eye on the situation.

Japan has also reacted; although the President of Japan has not increased the Japanese Army’s level of alert he has expressed that Japan will be “watching very closely”.

North Korean relations with China, Japan and South Korea have been very antagonistic during the last couple decades and this is one of the main reasons for worry in the region.

In the past, China have enjoyed close relations with North Korea, however the increase in Korean nuclear activity has caused friction between the two countries. China stated publicly that they were against the North Korean nuclear program and voted in favour of UN sanctions on North Korea.  In November 2010, The Guardian published details of correspondence between the Chinese government and the United States which showed that the Chinese government had referred to North Korea as a “spoiled child” and their nuclear program as “a threat to the whole world’s security”.

One of the main disputes between North Korea and Japan is the disappearance of Japanese citizens in North Korean between 1977 and 1983.  Japan accused the North Korean regime of being responsible for the loss of Japanese citizens.

For years, North Korea had denied any involvement; but in 2002 they had admitted their involvement in the kidnapping of 13 Japanese citizens.  There have also been many different confrontations between the two countries which include espionage, drug smuggling and the nuclear missile testing conducted by North Korea.

North Korea and South Korea have had a difficult relationship since the end of World War 2.  There have been many military attacks on South Korea by the North.  There have been bombings, missile attacks and a number of naval conflicts in the seas surrounding the Korean peninsula.

North Korea has also antagonised the western world as they have refused to let UN nuclear inspectors enter the country to inspect the country’s nuclear arsenal and capability.  The western liberal world have also backed South Korea in any disputes it has had with its neighbour which has caused tensions between North Korea and the West to become even more tense.

Although North Korea has the reputation of being one of the world’s biggest human rights violators, the death of the dictator has appeared to have caused widespread grief throughout the country.  News reporters were visibly weeping and people were gathering in public places to mourn the passing of their leader.  This reaction is in contrast to the reaction of North Korean communities throughout the world.  The Los Angeles Times reported that the mood in the Korea town district of LA was a mixture of joy and worry.  People were happy that Kim Jong Il had died but they feared for the safety of the family and friends they know who are still in North Korea as they knew a change of leader would cause great instability.

Initial reports also suggest that the death of Kim Jong Il has also had an impact on the economy of the region too.  CNN stated that on the 19th, “Japan’s Nikkei lost 1.3%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slid 1.2%, and the Shanghai Composite shed 0.3%. South Korea’s Kospi fell the most, plunging 4.9% in mid-morning trading in Seoul, before climbing slightly to end off 3.4%”.  The economy was affected as it is any time there is a shift in geopolitics; any political event, such as the death of a leader, has an effect on the international economy.

As North Korea has had a history of being an unpredictable and confrontational country, a change in power will definitely cause uncertainty.  Kim Jong Un will probably adopt the same oppressive dictatorship style of rule, but the same questions remain; will he be even more oppressive than his late father, and will a new leader cause further volatility and confrontation in the region?

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Posted on December 19, 2011, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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