The Fog of the Post-Kim Jong-il Period
United States Institute of Peace
December 19, 2011
Interview with: John Park, Project on Managing the Atom/International Security Program research fellow
Topic: Kim Jong-il
“John Park, a senior program officer who directs USIP’s Korea Working Group, analyzes the key policy issues arising from the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Dec. 17.
Q: How was Kim Jong-il’s death announced? What’s at stake?
A: On Dec. 19, North Korean state media announced that Kim Jong-il had died on Dec. 17. The report stated that Kim had succumbed to mental and physical exhaustion while conducting on-site guidance visits. When news of Kim Il-sung’s death was unveiled in 1994, international reaction — particularly in regional stock markets — stabilized quickly. What’s different now is that we’re dealing with a North Korea that has conducted two nuclear tests and significantly expanded its nuclear weapons programs.
Internally, the North Korean regime will need to show consistently that they’re in command since the U.S. and South Korean militaries are prepared to respond to instability. Washington and Seoul’s concern is that instability will lead to a breakdown of command and control in a country that has active nuclear weapons programs. Beijing’s major concern is a massive outflow of North Korean refugees into the Chinese provinces in the border region.”