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Kim Jong-il’s Death Has Inspired Uncertainty and Anxiety: North Korea’s Succession and the Region

by Scott A. Snyder
December 19, 2011

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) walks in front of his youngest son Kim Jong-un (R) as they watch a parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 10, 2010

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) walks in front of his youngest son Kim Jong-un (R) as they watch a parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 10, 2010 (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters).

Despite clearly laid plans for succession, Kim Jong-il’s sudden death has induced uncertainty and anxiety among North Korea’s neighbors. Whereas his father had two decades to consolidate power over the country, Kim Jong-un has only had two years. With a fragmented and stovepiped system that only allows for the leader to exercise control, a vacuum at the top could lead to bureaucratic infighting. Despite a common fear of instability, North Korea’s neighbors are warily watching both Pyongyang and each other. I write about this in my CNN article.

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