Our city’s large Korean community is experiencing a time of uncertainty that the rest of the world shares, because of the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.
The North Korean leader’s demise also makes room for hope among the more than 300,000 Koreans living in Greater Los Angeles. They hope the ascent to power of Kim Jong Il’s son, Kim Jong Un, improves the conditions of extreme poverty in which the majority of North Korea’s 24 million residents live.
Nevertheless, uncertainty is the right word to define the general sentiment about one of the world’s most closed regimes, where the adoration of the “Dear Leader” is a way of life encouraged by the government itself.
What is known is that Kim Jong Un has been preparing to replace his father for three years and that the military plays a key role in the Asian nation’s power structure. Beyond that, it is all speculation.
Kim Jong Un is expected to continue his father’s policies in general, but it is hard to guess the plans of the 29 year old. Especially whether he will maintain the regime’s paranoia that led it to become a nuclear power while hunger ravaged the population, in particular in rural areas.
Analysts have predicted the regime may become tougher as it consolidates internally.
The death, for example, leaves up in the air what seemed like a recent deal between Kim Jong Il’s regime and the United States to allow international inspectors to enter nuclear facilities in exchange for 240,000 tons of food.
The secretive nature of North Korea’s government broadens the questions about the future of a poor, nuclear nation that has experienced one of the world’s cruelest dictatorships. This is a great geopolitical challenge for the region and the U.S.
Los Angeles’ Korean community, of which a great majority are South Koreans, deeply hopes this could bring the North and the South closer together. We hope so.