Kim Jong Eun

December 19, 2011 by staff 

Kim Jong Eun, The death of Kim Jong Il opens a new and potentially dangerous period of transition and instability for North Korea and northeast Asia, while also bringing to a halt some progress in improving Pyongyang’s relations with the U.S. and South Korea.

Mr. Kim died on Saturday of a heart attack while on a train, North Korea’s state media said. A television news announcer, dressed in black and her voice quivering with emotion, said Monday the nation would unite behind Kim Jong Il’s third son, Kim Jong Eun, as North Korea’s new leader.

Although the succession plan has been laid out for many months, the elder Mr. Kim’s sudden death comes as Kim Jong Eun, believed to be 27 or 28 years old, has had little time to develop a power base.

Analysts said the risks of instability in North Korea during the power transition are high.

“Any assessment inside or outside the government would have said the most likely scenario of a North Korean collapse would be the sudden death of Kim Jong Il,” said Victor Cha, a Georgetown University professor and former top U.S. official on North Korea. “We’re inside that scenario right now.”

To preserve its power, the Kim family will have to work closely with the North Korean military. Kim Jong Il maintained a low profile after taking power following the death of his father in 1994 while he courted military leaders and tried to consolidate his power.

Though North Korean media statements have made some references to Kim Jong Eun’s military skills, it is unclear how he is perceived by military leaders. And in a society based on Confucian ideas of seniority-based power, the young Mr. Kim’s age works against him.

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