The death of 'dear leader' Kim Jong-il is unlikely to produce great change in North Korea in the short term, and successor Kim Jong-un may find it difficult to consolidate power. In the long term, the Kim monarchy will collapse and the Korean peninsula will be reunited.
AP Photo/Kyodo News, File
The death of Kim Jong -il may gradually unlock change in North Korea, but the process is unlikely to be smooth or quick.
In 2010, Mr. Kim promoted his 20-something son Kim Jong-un to be a four-star general and spent the last year trying to bolster his standing among top party and military leaders. Whether Kim Jong-il will posthumously succeed in consolidating an oxymoronic communist monarchy is unlikely, but the succession politics of the last year were marked by two dangerous bellicose events – the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel and the shelling of a South Korean island.
In the short term of months, I do not expect great change in Pyongyang. But over the next year or so, Kim Jong-un may find it difficult to consolidate his power with the old guard, particularly in the Army. That would suggest a period of uncertainty and instability.
In the long term, I believe that the Kim monarchy will collapse and the Korean peninsula will be reunited, but these expectations have taken much longer to fulfill than anyone expected a decade ago. When I chaired the National Intelligence Council a decade and a half ago, I was struck by how opaque the North Korean regime was to outside intelligence.