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The Daily North Korea, South Korea

Why the Kim Jong-un Regime is 'Doomed'


"The message of Kim Jong-il's death is clear: Under Kim Jong-un, the system based on an all-powerful leader will no longer be possible. … Before his rein has even begun, it is doomed by conflicting problems: first, the domestic conflict that would be created by military opposition to marketization; and second, substantial and growing civilian displeasure with having a man of 28 years running the country."


By Sohn Gwang-joo


Translated By Lee Yun-lee


December 23, 2011



South Korea - Daily North Korea - Original Article (Korean)

Kim Jong-un observes his father's corpse: Is this young man capable of ruling?


BBC NEWS VIDEO: Scenes of mourning verge on the absurd for Kim Jong-il, Dec. 25, 00:00:40WindowsVideo

What will become of Kim Jong-un? Once can try and predict North Korea's future from a number of angles, but when all is said and done, the core issue is the fate of Kim Jong-un.


Following in the footsteps of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un is the "heir to the throne," as it were. He's hasn't succeeded his father as general secretary of the party [the Korean Workers' Party], chairman of the National Defense Commission or leading military man. But nevertheless, he is the new supreme leader of the country. As a general in the Chosun People’s Army and member of the Korean Workers' Party Central Committee, Kim Jong-un is now the leading authority in North Korea.


But unlike Kim Jong-un, after Kim Il-sung died, it was as military chief that Kim Jong-il took control of North Korea. Kim Jong-il too, of course, was heir to the throne. Only after one understands this system, which entails vastly different transfers of power than one is accustomed to in South Korea, America or even China, is it possible to predict what lies in store for the North Korean system.


In North Korea, there are three prerequisites for maintaining control: leadership of the Party (as Korean Workers' Party general secretary), leadership of the state apparatus (chairman of the National Defense Commission) and being supreme leader of the military (as military chief of staff). So it is crucial not to downplay the importance of being named successor to the current leader since this is the only path to a relatively easy transition of total power over the state.


The next most important position is secretary general of the party. This position is the most important rung on the ladder toward wielding authority over party and citizens. To put it bluntly, it is no longer strictly necessary to become chairman of the National Defense Commission. In fact, this is likely of little importance. Most "experts" make predictions on the future of North Korea without properly understanding this key point.


In accordance with Article 21 of the revised Chosun Workers' Party regulations, Kim Jong-un will automatically become party general secretary. Moreover, Article 22 says that the chairman of the Central Military Commission, a position that oversees all military issues, is reserved for party's general secretary. Up to now, many elements of the media have spent their time wondering what Kim Jong-un's status will be and how the transfer of power will take place.


To begin at the end, Kim Jong-un will have absolutely no trouble when it comes to the transfer of power. There are peripheral bits of interest, such as what kind of propaganda and events the authorities will use to sell the power transfer, but these are merely side issues. Only when reporters and analysts get away from focusing on whether or not a smooth power transfer can take place will they comprehend the big picture.


Media can only report accurately and in the best interests of the public if they stick to the core issues. Only then can the public get a proper sense of the future of the two Koreas and the Korean Peninsula as a whole. The future of South Korea is not well served by a foolish or stuck-in-the-mud media.


The most pressing question to ponder now is who will become the head of the Organization and Guidance Department. While waiting in the wings, this was a position Kim Jong-il filled, and it was one that allowed him to shore up his status as party and state leader before Kim Il-sung passed away.


Ever since Kim Jong-il became party general secretary, the Guidance Department position has been vacant. Or to put it another way, Kim Jong-il filled both posts. But now that Kim Jong-un is leader, he will have to skip over the job of party organizing secretary straight to the general secretary's office. What is therefore of interest here is whether he does or does not fill the post of chief of the Organization and Guidance Department; and if he does dispense with the post - who will fill it and when. To understand North Korea's power dynamics, one must grasp these issues.


So if the transfer of power to Kim Jong-un is a fait accompli, then what critical issues are left to decide? Of course it is the question of Kim Jong-un's leadership ability - and there is plenty of doubt about that. The fate of 24 million North Koreans depends on his capacity to lead the country. The future of the entire Korean Peninsula and South Korean policy toward the North depends on his leadership. No matter how much China and the U.S. hope for North Korean stability under Kim Jong-un, they have no capacity whatsoever to manage internal problems that arise in North Korea.


One needs only the slightest familiarity with history to understand that major problems almost always develop from within. As much as China would like to prevent the collapse of the Kim Jong-un regime, what capacity will it really have in the face of an explosion derived from North Korea's contradictions?


Furthermore, no matter how great China’s influence over the Pyongyang leadership may be, will Beijing truly be able to order around its new leaders as if they were serfs? Kim Jong-il had some fitting words of wisdom on this point: “One embedded Soviet or Chinese dog is more dangerous than ten Yankee imperial agents.”


So the potential influence of China over North Korea is limited to areas of the economy, providing a shield against the United States and South Korea, and providing it with diplomatic support. It is inconceivable that ideological or political support will ever enter into the equation.


Moving on, Kim Jong-un has no choice but to follow the path laid down by his father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. Because of this he will have to continue upholding the torch of Juche thought [self reliance] and Songun ideology [military-first]. The country’s annual New Year’s address will almost certainly consist of strident calls for the entire party, military and citizenry to serve the "great leader" Kim Jong-un like they did his father and grandfather before him.


So for these reasons if for no others, there is little basis to believe that under Kim Jong-un, pro-China factions will guide the new North Korean leadership.


So the message of Kim Jong-il's death is clear: The class-system dictatorship established when Kim Il-sung seized power in 1948 and which has carried on for 63 years will soon reach its end. If, however, the Kim Jong-un regime were to seriously address the issue the North's chronic hunger problem, it would win him significant goodwill.


Under Kim Jong-un, the system based on an all-powerful leader will no longer be possible. The system of absolute dedication to the father Kim Il-sung and his successor Kim Jong-il is all but at an end. Although he is referred to as the "leader", there really isn't anyone that Kim Jong-un can absolutely command. To maintain the system of absolute leadership of the masses that has existed up to now, Kim Jong-un would need to maintain the strict top down hierarchy that his father and grandfather fashioned.


However, the people that Kim Jong-un would hope to lead have already left him for the market. For most people in Hamkyung, Yangkang, Jagang and Pyongan provinces, private markets has become the central means of survival. In the minds of these people, images of a father-like leader and a loving, caring, maternal Worker's Party have already disappeared without a trace.


All Kim Jong-un has left in his control is Pyongyang's privileged class, and even they are tied to him out of concern for their own interests rather than any ideological solidarity. It is a marriage of convenience. Naturally, these people aren't all going to suddenly disappear, but if and when they do, Kim Jong-un will be left without anyone to command.

Of course, Kim Jong-il was no better when it came to leading the masses. His style of leadership was to feed people propaganda with one hand and clobber them with the other. Even his death was propaganda, stylized to sound as if he had died on a train while working in the interests of the people. It is scarcely believable that there are still elements in the media and other fools who fail to recognize this as simply old school communist propaganda.


Ever since Kim Il-sung died 17 years ago, the people of North Korea have lived in a purgatory between life and death. Those who have survived have done so by absolutely any means necessary, and it is only now that they have found a way to survive on their own. And like anything of value, people don't easily dispense with what they have worked so hard to achieve.


So if Kim Jong-un truly wants to lead, he will have to choose between winning the war against private markets, which would include restoring the top-down system of leader-party-people; or moving to a system that tolerates private markets. He must choose one. If he picks the first, he will have to lock down North Korea and kill, purge and beat a great number of people. But if he chooses the latter, he will have to establish a leadership circle based on reform and liberation - and create a master-plan for realizing such goals while dealing one by one with every obstacle that gets in his way. Naturally for that to happen, the people of North Korea would need to go along with his leadership.


Unfortunately for him, neither of these options is available now. As far as the first option of maintaining the current arrangements, he can't very well shut North Korea's doors and call everyone back inside. As for the second option, the people have lost the reasons they once may have had to blindly follow his leadership.


Given these facts, the only sensible conclusion to draw is that the Kim Jong-un system cannot long survive, for it has major structural problems. Before his rein has even begun, it is doomed by a set of conflicting problems: first, the domestic conflict that would be created by military opposition to marketization; and second, substantial and growing civilian displeasure with having a man of 28 years running the country.


Thirteen years ago the South Korean administration of Kim Dae-jung established the Sunshine Policy, believing at the time that North Korea had no option other than to pursue liberation and reform, and that all South Korea had to do was give them a little nudge to make it happen. In the end, South Korea lost far more than it gained from this inaccurate and premature analysis.



Jong-A Ilbo, S. Korea: U.S.,China Must Resist Urge to Meddle after Kim's Death

Korean Central, North Korea: The U.S. 'Should Be Cursed' By All Koreans

Korean Central, North Korea: 'Japanese Militarists' Prepare for Reinvasion of Korea
Guardian, U.K.: China Confirms Readiness to Accept Korean Unity Under South
Guardian, U.K.: Leaked Cables Reveal China is 'Ready to Abandon' North Korea
Global Times, China: All Koreans Share the Same 'Resistance to External Influence'

Guardian, U.K.: U.S. Embassy Cables - Hanging North Korea Out to Dry

Korean Central, North Korea: The North Korean People are 'Greatly Enraged'

Global Times, China: Time for S. Korea, U.S., Japan to Revise N. Korea Policies
JoongAng Ilbo, South Korea: Like George Bush on 9-11, President Lee Must Speak
Global Times, China: Reliance on U.S. Will Not Ensure South Korean Security
JoongAng Ilbo, South Korea: It's Time to 'Retaliate' Against North Korea
Hankyoreh, South Korea: Ball's in U.S.-China Court After North's Barrage
JoongAnd Daily, South Korea: China's Premier Reacts 'Ambiguously' to Assault
JoongAnd Daily, South Korea: North Korea Used 'Thermobaric Bombs' in Assault
Debka File, Israel: U.S. Spurns Japan's Demand for Reprisal Against North
Debka File, Israel: Brits 'At War' with Stuxnet PC Virus; U.S. Says: Use it on North
Global Times, China: Dialogue of Artillery is a 'Tragedy' for Northeast Asia
Korea Times, South Korea: Military Hardliners Likely Behind Attack
Chosun Ilbo: China Must Act Now on North Korea Nuclear Threat
Dong-A Ilbo, South Korea: Island Panicked by Surprise Attack
Daily North Korea, South Korea: North Seeks to Shift Blame Onto South
Yonhap, South Korea: U.N. Command Seeks Talks with N. Korea  


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The after-effects of the Sunshine Policy are now more visible in the South than the North. Although it came a little late, last year's decision by the Lee Myung Bak Administration to move from a policy of separation but peaceful coexistence with North Korea to one of peaceful reunification was a step in the right direction.


From now on, the key tenets of North Korea policy need to be "engagement" and "enlargement." The categories in which they can "engage" and "enlarge" upon are information, economy, politics and the military. I will deal with these more specifically in my next column.


The meaning of Kim Jong-il's death is deep and profound, not only for the situation on the ground in the North, but for Seoul's relations with it. One of the greatest stumbling blocks to progress on the peninsula for the achievement of greater freedom, democracy and peace in Asia and around the world has been removed with the death of Kim Jong-il. But despite that, it seems that most people fail to realize the significance of his passing.


Nevertheless, there is something I would like to point out to the Lee Myung Bak government. In August 2008, when Kim Jong-il was first struck down by a stroke, the Daily NK recommended on numerous occasions that it was now a good time to begin serious preparations for the post-Kim Jong-il era. We also made some suggestions about how to make that happen.


But yesterday, the Chosun Ilbo carried news that the government is asserting that now is a new opportunity to begin inter-Korean relations all over again. What do they mean a "new opportunity" to begin again? Does that mean that for the three years since Kim Jong-il was struck down by a stroke, the government has done nothing in the way of planning for this eventuality?


Most Koreans would have thought that the government had plans for the day Kim Jong-il was out of the picture. When reporters asked what this would mean for the future of our North Korea policy, most people would have expected the government to say, “We have long had a plan in place for life after Kim Jong-il, so just go about your business.” People took for granted that Seoul's response would be that such a plan would come into effect after allowing for the situation in North Korea to settle down.  



Instead, the government came out with bizarre talk of a complete reboot for inter-Korean relations. How can this be taken as anything but a sign that the government has absolutely no idea what to do now that Kim Jong-il has left the scene?


Why is it that ordinary people are always the ones to face the consequences when those in power decide that there is something other than the will of the people that they would rather follow? Why have young people braved the dark streets and cold for the sake of North Korean human rights, yet the government can’t seem to do anything right when it comes to the North Korean Human Rights Act? Why is it that other countries pass laws on North Korean human rights while ours cannot? How will it be possible to make progress when this is the attitude of the Republic of Korea? It's an unfortunate fact that the end of this year has left us with too many people in the National Assembly that are passed their use-by date.




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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US Dec. 25, 6:19pm]


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