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Monday, September 29, 2008

Kim Jong's Ill


Not many probably know how sick North Korea's "Dear Leader" is. Scenarios are continually bandied about hypothesizing that Kim has been dead for years and the person we see on television is a look-alike. Regardless, at some point, North Korea will either have to admit Kim is dead, tell the world how sick he really is, or pull him off of life support a la Dave. This brings up the question of succession. Sahil Mahtani does a great job going over the possible succession scenarios in the article "Kim Jong's Ill" from The New Republic. Below is an excerpt:

Hereditary succession would, under normal circumstances, be the most plausible outcome of a patrilineal regime like North Korea's. However, Kim's sons have been mostly absent from government, and seem to have ceded de facto authority to the powerful military and party bureaucracies that surround Kim. Keep in mind, said one experienced observer of North Korea affairs, "All of these guys were educated overseas [in Switzerland and the Soviet Union, for example]. They have no school chum network." In a closed society like North Korea, such ties are crucial if a leader is to have reins over his governing factions.

Yet while Mr. Kim's sons lack a strong power base, they have the genes. Which is to say, even if the military and party bureaucracies prove to be the stronger contenders for power during a succession struggle, one of Mr. Kim's sons is still likely to assume formal leadership. He may do so more as a figurehead, but he would nevertheless be a crucial conduit for the new ruling clique to acquire the legitimacy of the previous regime. According to the Korea observer noted above, "The most plausible model for what would happen next is for a member of the family to play a symbolic role, like the Japanese emperor. It may be that North Korea is headed towards, not a biological connection with the past, but a spiritual connection. After all, how many days do you spend worrying about the blood-pressure of the Japanese emperor?"

No matter who takes over North Korea, its nuclear arsenal, and the world's fifth largest standing army, the new leader will never be able to combine Miami Vice fashion and stunner shades as well as Kim Jong Il... below is a picture of the "Dear Leader" going retro chic and putting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's stunner shade picture to shame:

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