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Keywords:

  • North Korea;
  • Kim Jong-il;
  • Kim Jong-un;
  • power succession;
  • Jang Song-taek;
  • Kim dynasty

Kim Jong-il's abrupt death in December 2011 raises many questions. Will Kim Jong-un pull off the third-generation dynastic succession? Will there be policy changes? How should South Korea deal with North Korea? This essay seeks to answer these questions. Despite all the trappings of power, Kim Jong-un is not likely to wield real power. He is most likely to become a symbolic leader without real power or be dethroned by older leaders. Jang Song-taek, Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law, may emerge North Korea's de facto leader. Kim Jong-un will not last long because the North Korean system has two fundamental flaws of power succession and dysfunctional economy. The destruction of the Kim dynasty will come from internal sources. South Korea policy toward the North should be based on two principles, that is, peaceful coexistence and tension reduction. As time passes, North Korea will either reform or fall. In the meantime, South Korea should proactively manage conflicts and reduce tensions with the North. Korean unification may come sooner than later. It's time for South Korea to prepare for unification, reconstruction, and reconciliation.