Kim Jong Un’s Health: Its Implications to Regional Security

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Instability would surely rock the foundations of the hermit state North Korea as reports of Kim Jong Un’s alleged demise go the rounds. A possible internal power struggle between Kim’s surviving sister and the newly arrested uncle may break the hold of the Kims and justify the entry of the strongest military figure in North Korea as Supreme Leader. Such a possibility would open North Korea to change its directions and the state lifting its self-imposed isolation looms large.

Kim Jong Un is North Korean’s Supreme Leader. Since he assumed the leadership after his father died, Kim has been successful in consolidating state power under him by mimicking the acts and achievements of his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung. The first Kim was the one who led forces against the unsuccessful occupation of the Korean Peninsula. A friend of China, Kim Il-Sung transformed the North Korean government into what many termed as a “hermit kingdom”, with him or the Kims as Supreme family.

Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong-Il, was perceived to be a weak leader and when he died, his son, Kim Jong Un took it upon himself to reconsolidate support behind their family by doing acts which his grandfather did during his term.

Reports that Jong-Il had died are now going the rounds. Reports say that Jong-Il suffered from a massive stroke which left him under a respirator. His sister is reportedly the second in command.

Here’s the catch– we don’t know exactly how North Korean leaders especially the military would react on this development. What is certain is that this hermit state thrived based on the strong paternalistic image cultivated by the Kims. It would be very difficult to change the narrative now.

One thing is certain—the North would try to do something in order to get a deal cut out for it with the United States and the South. It might flex its military muscle again by saber-rattling. It would be foolhardy at this time to challenge the powers but it would do so for fears of an invasion or a foreign-backed military intervention.

China would probably exert its enormous influence by convincing Party mates of the Kim to accept the sister as the next head, but this will surely cause complications. Kim’s uncle had been ordered arrested by the Supreme Leader but now that it is highly likely that the Kim had died, it is entirely possible that a power struggle is happening right now between the uncle and the sister of Kim.

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