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Kim Jong Il

[ 64 ] December 18, 2011 |

North Korean television reports that Kim Jong Il has died.

No RIP on this one. North Korean national website has no info. Hard even to conceive of the potential implications at this point; it’ll take a little while to have an understanding of whether Kim Jong-un will succeed his father, de facto or only de jure.


Comments (64)

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  1. wengler says:

    Christopher Hitchens, Vaclev Havel, Kim Jong Il.

    Interesting three.

    I daresay Kim Jong Il’s son is nowhere near in the same stable position that Kim Jong Il was in when his dad died.

    The next move becomes very dependent on the military higher echelons ratifying the son as the successor.

  2. Veritas says:

    Some leftist says the conditions in north Korea are all America’s fault in 5, 4, 3, 2…

  3. Is there any room to hope that this is good news, and things will get better in North Korea?

    • sleepyirv says:

      I would venture to guess the situation is uncertain. And uncertain circumstances leads the experts to predict unholy hell. Theoretically Kim Jong-un will need the support of the hardliners but who knows? Things could become better.

      • spud says:

        And if he gets killed by some ambitious general, would it make a whole lot of difference in the way the country will be run?

        • wengler says:

          Sure, since the state religion is pretty dependent on worship of the Kim Il Sung family.

          I know there is a great belief that coercion alone is sufficient, but once you start reading some of the accounts of refugees, you realize these people are brainwashed by some pretty crazy shit. They have absolutely zero access to the outside world.

          Once that belief system is defeated the state will soon follow.

          • DrDick says:

            At the very least it would significantly destabilize things.

          • mpowell says:

            I’m kind of optimistic. The nukes are bad, but the rest of NoKo’s military apparatus really rests on the fact that they can extract huge surplus from a compliant and starving civilian population. Without the cult of leadership, this is going to fall apart and NoKo’s conventional military capabilities will collapse. Medium term, I think this makes it a lot easier for neighbors to start influencing the regime. And while that kind of influence is frequently malign, in this case I think it will only improve things.

      • I would venture to guess the situation is uncertain…Theoretically…but who knows?

        That’s about what I’ve got, too.

    • wengler says:

      Sure, why not?

      We have very little information of life in the DPRK right now. A change at the center of any centrally-controlled state can cause changes(look at Cuba’s liberalizations).

      It’s that artillery pointed at Seoul and the nascent nuclear program that everyone else can worry about.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        look at Cuba’s liberalizations

        Actually, this morning I found myself thinking about the risk of getting one’s hopes up in this kind of situation — IIRC, a lot of people though Raul taking the reins from Fidel would lead to a massive transformation, rather than piecemeal reform.

        And then there’s Syria…

      • Tybalt says:

        We actually have lots of information on life in the DPRK. It’s almost entirely ignored; it’s more fun to snark about the crazy propaganda that they put out for Western eyes.

  4. Fighting Words says:

    Wow. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

    I guess it’s time to bring this back out:

    On a serious note, I really wonder what’s going to happen now. I hope things can work out for the North Koreans. But I just don’t know.

    • spud says:

      My sentiments exactly.

      The major problem is, that autocratic nutcases are a dime a dozen. Kim Jong was fungible goods. Anyone could have run North Korea as well or better than him. He could be easily replaced by the next person who can spend the GDP like a personal piggybank, placate the military and ignore the needs of his people.

      If they don’t collapse completely into Somalia North, it will be ruled by whomever survives the post-Kim bloodbath which just started.

      • wengler says:

        North Korea is surrounded by Russia, China and South Korea, not to mention adjacent to Japan. None of these countries can afford to have it become Somalia North.

        Honestly, the Obama administration is probably going to just hope for a smooth transition. Anything to avoid another confrontation with China 60 years on.

        • Obama doesn’t go to war if China goes into a collapsing North Korea.

          Which is the right call.

          • wengler says:

            The US has a significant troop presence in South Korea. There is a strong chance that the South Korean government would react somewhat negatively to another Chinese invasion.

            Avoiding war with a war-hungry opposition and US troops imperiled is not a simple task.

          • Murc says:

            China is in a tricky position if, as wengler said, the place starts to turn into Somalia North.

            In that scenario literally millions of refugees will head north (being as how that isn’t the border with a few million land mines waiting at it) which is absolutely the last thing the PRC wants; they can either take the massive economic hit by absorbing them or the massive international condemnation of sealing their border and literally leaving people to die on the banks of the Yalu. Or they can go in and stabilize the place themselves, which opens up a massive diplomatic can of worms.

            My guess is they’d look for UN legitimization of any potential Korean intervention, and if they were smart, they’d back re-unification schemes. Tying North Korea to South Korea would completely fuck the South as a regional power for literally decades, minimum.

            • Curmudgeon says:

              Nobody can afford a Somalia North scenario, but nobody likes the North Korean population enough to help it on its own territory either. If the DPRK degenerates into anarchy, the international response will be predicated on containment rather than reconstruction.

              The Chinese and South Korean response to any international condemnation for sealing their borders against refugees is likely to be the local equivalent of an extended middle finger.

              • Murc says:

                South Korea and China run economies that are rather dependent on not being exposed to international sanctions and/or companies and people who are unwilling to be associated with the perpetrators of ongoing and highly visible human rights violations. China can work people to death in slave-like conditions in factories and nobody will care; divisions of Chinese troops visibly rounding up starving peasants and dumping them in the frigid wastes of North Korea is quite another.

                And I fear you massively misread prevailing opinion in South Korea. They regard themselves as the legitimate government of the entire peninsula and if North Korea collapsed the political and popular pressure to re-integrate would be massive. MASSIVE. Germany after the USSR collapsed massive.

              • chris y says:

                The nuclear issue makes it less certain that nobody would go in. If there’s one issue on which China and the US might find common ground it’s the undesirability of Somalia with nukes.

                I suspect that if push comes to shove, only Hu can go to Pyongyang. I hope whoever is running Washington by then is equal to understanding this.

    • Colin Day says:

      But did the cockroach in his brain make it to its spaceship?

  5. thebewilderness says:

    I’ve been expecting it for quite a while. I never could figure out if the transition took root or not. It always seemed kinda iffy.

    • wengler says:

      Since the death was a)announced through state media and b)information about it was controlled at least for 2 days, we can assume that there has been a relatively stable post-Kim Jong Il plan enacted, at least for now.

      Remember we don’t know for how long he has been debilitated before death. The guy apparently had a shitload of medical problems.

      • Halloween Jack says:

        For at least a few years now, the image of KJI in the official North Korean media has been that of someone who was wearing much heavier clothing (a parka and a Russian-style mad bomber hat) than the people around him, seemed to be almost visibly shrinking in that clothing, and also seemed to have little interest in whatever farm or factory that he was shown touring.

        • Tybalt says:

          And yet, he did nothing but tour.

          Also, he didn’t tour farms or factories. He toured military installations. And almost nothing else. Constantly.

          Kim’s entire last decade was spent in reintegrating the military, right down to battalion level, with the political class. At the end, it’s true that it’s not real clear how much work Kim is doing in these tours and visits; but the attempt to reassert political control of the army at the fine-grained level is very real and appears to have been very effective, not least because there are almost no centers of power left in North Korea other than the military. The rest of society is basically gone. If you need anything in North Korea, you go through the military.

  6. Josh G. says:

    Kim Jong-un, the heir presumptive, is not yet 29 years old. This article ( contains quite a bit of interesting information on him. His former sushi chef, now an expatriate living in Japan, said that “He has superb physical gifts, is a big drinker and never admits defeat.” (This was apparently meant as a compliment.) It’s also been suggested that Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, might act as regent due to his young age. According to Wikipedia, Jang is “director of the State Development Bank, director of the Taepung International Investment Group and director of the Taesong International Group.” That could indicate at least some interest in dealing with the outside world on levels other than just nuclear blackmail. But this is North Korea – who knows for sure?

  7. Thers says:

    This really hurts the Bears. They were gonna start K-Jil next week.

  8. DocAmazing says:

    Trey Parker will be crushed.

  9. Curmudgeon says:

    Kim Jong’s not just Il at this point–he’s dead.

  10. Warren Terra says:

    By coincidence, I just last night finished reading Barbara Demick’s Nothing To Envy, about ordinary lives in North Korea, mostly in the northern city of Chongjin and mostly in the 1990s. You may think you’ve got an idea of how bad things have been there for the last couple of decades (I thought I did), but unless you’ve gone beyond news reports and a few magazine articles you probably don’t know just how bad. I’m not sure I could dream up such a horrific scene.

    • wileywitch says:

      Yeah. That’s a country where the good news is that you’ve scrimped, saved, and worked extra to buy your daughter a cutting board as a wedding present. The bad news is that Kim Jong Il just changed the currency again so you will only have a tenth of what you need to buy that cutting board.

      I don’t see anything happening but all interested parties cooperating to make the transition as smooth as possible. Things are going to well for China, South Korea doesn’t want to have a bite taken out of them—they’re booming. Why would any other country be interested in anything less than NO PROBLEMS? The U.S. has nothing to gain by making this harder than it has to be. I feel like adults are charge of our foreign policy right now.

      • chris y says:

        The director of Russia’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Mikhail Titarenko, says of the impact of Kim Jong-il’s death on North Korean-Russian relations: “North Korea, you may say, is concerned about becoming much too dependent on China. And as a counterbalance, they will be developing relations with Russia. The late Kim Jong-il was putting a lot of efforts into this,” he told Reuters news agency.


    • Jeremy says:

      I finished it last month. Really moving, really depressing. I sincerely hope things are stable and trending towards reconciliation and engagement (I live in Japan and don’t want bombs falling anywhere in my hemisphere).

      At best, leveler heads on both sides will realize the potential for engaging with each other.

  11. c u n d gulag says:

    RI Pieces, Lil’ Kim.
    You will go down as a pipsqueak Hitler-Mao-Stalin-Your Evil Daddy wannabe who could have been the leader of a potentially great country, but you preferred to be the Dictator of a shithole of your own making.

    In other words, he was a North Koren version of an American Republican.
    Newt won’t admit it, but this evil assclown was probably his personal hero – an egotistical, torturing, child-raping, woman-kidnapping, population-starving, police-state-enforcing, mass-murdering, drunken blowhard.

  12. Woodrowfan says:

    Any bets on the DPRK press claiming he rises from the grave in a couple days?

  13. dan says:

    World’s Greatest Golfer, RIP. No one will ever match his record of five holes-in-one in a single round of golf.

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