North Korea (formally Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) is a rather far and isolated. It is infamous for its aggressive rhetoric (usually launches of missiles, sometimes nuclear tests) or for some bizarre extravagances of its leader, the young Kim Jong-un, third-generation heir of the only country in the world to be able to merge communism and dynastic succession.
The reason why DPRK quickly stepped up in the chronicles in the last 48 hours is related with the health conditions of Kim Jong Un: several media outlets are insisting that he is now dead after a surgical operation. This news is still unconfirmed.
This rumour has ignited a wide amount of reflections about the future of the country: what is next?
The succession between the founder of DPRK, Kim Il-Sung, took many decades, and when he died (1994) his son, Kim Jong Il, was ready to inherit the supreme power. Things became complicated with the second succession. After the death of Kim Jong Il (2011), his son, the then nearly 30 years old Kim Jong-un inherited the power without (apparently) having had a long training or preparation for this role. During his tenure Kim Jong-un has developed a nuclear arsenal and meeting President Trump twice. But the rumours of Kim Jong-un’s death are opening some possible scenarios that could be sum up as follows:
- The power (the transition) is managed by the military, the only structure in the country who can rely on a wide amount of troops in active service and in reserve; but this solution might be difficult because where is the Kim’s family in this picture?
- Another family member replaces Kim Jong Un: many sources are now indicating his sister, Kim Yo Jong, as a possible successor. Few details are known about her biography. She has been one of the few women around Kim Jong-un in all the last events and summits he attended. But other sources say that it is unlikely that such a young (she is probably born in the late 80s) and “female” figure could replace a traditionally men-dominated country like DPRK; she is part of the family, but will she be able to have the support of the powerful military?
- Some other figure in the family can step in, but it is unclear how the “line of succession” works inside the Kim family;
- Kim Jong-un is not dead: business as usual.
- The succession in leadership does not work, so a frightening scenario of a possible collapse, regime change, revolution or other internal disorder(s) could happen. No one in Seoul, Washington, Beijing, Moscow and many other cities wishes to happen now.
Due to the secrecy of the country, and the still unconfirmed news about Kim Jong-un’s health, all these options are still on the table.