The Day the Great Leader Became the Eternal Leader
Daily NK, run by North Korean defectors, reminds us that yesterday marked "the 16th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s death" — Death of Kim, Deathknell of a Regime. Some analysis:
- With Kim Il Sung’s death, North Korea all but pronounced its own death. Thereafter, the country has been eking out its life span with the military-first policy and taking economic aid from other countries. Therefore, the Kim Jong Il regime cannot be seen as a “sustainable system” like those of neighboring countries. It is merely a risky regime pregnant with the possibility of collapse at any time.
Moreover, the Kim Jong Il regime is preparing a third generation succession of power. However, the situation and surroundings are unfavorable compared to the first succession from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il. In the 1970s, North Korea was getting by in terms of food, the Cold War system was relatively stable and, therefore, cooperation and aid from countries of the communist bloc was available.
However now there are nuclear problems, serious food problems, human rights violations and markets expanding in the country, not to mention waves of globalization and digitalization. The surroundings are totally different from those of the 1970s.
North Korean people’s own classification of the two periods is harsh and clear: in the Kim Il Sung era people managed to get along, but in the Kim Jong Il era people are dying of hunger.
The opinion of Kim Jong Il has also changed since the 1990s. With the exception of public and official places or meetings, students tend not to call him “the General.” Only the oldest of women deep in the mountains call him “the General” with any sincerity.
In this precarious situation, it is not easy to imagine the succession working out well.