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Will 'supreme leader' Kim Jong-un take a shot on North Korea's future?

The young, Western-educated Kim Jong-un may be just the fresh start that North Korea needs to open up. He has a recent model to follow – Burma, a fellow reclusive nation in Asia that's reforming.

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A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of sacks of ore near the town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border, Dec. 28. North Korea held a funeral procession Wednesday for Kim Jong-il, making way for his son, Kim Jong-un, to run the isolated country.

REUTERS/Jacky Chen

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A young man who enjoys basketball and studied in Switzerland is now North Korea’s “supreme leader.” Kim Jong-un was thrust into power this week even before the funeral for his late father, Kim Jong-il, was over.

His quick succession, unlike that of his father’s, gives some hope of stability that could enable him to break from the past and open up his hermitlike country.

If the Western-educated Kim does have the inclination to do just that, he need not look far for a model.

Burma, like North Korea, has long been one of Asia’s last reclusive nations that chose not to join the region’s market dynamism of recent decades. And it, too, has an impoverished people largely cut off from the world and overly dependent for trade on one giant and controlling neighbor, China.

But since 2010, the ruling military of Burma (or Myanmar) has begun to shed the country’s isolation and authoritarian ways in hopes of becoming a leader among other Southeast Asian nations and to uplift its people.

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