Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

North Korea Transition

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

North Korea Transition

Article excerpt

A RUTHLESS but venerated monarch dies. His reclusive son is the heir apparent; his reputation ranges from erratic and cruel to technocrat and possible reformer. But potential rivals include the late monarch's stepson and an uncle who seven months ago was lifted from obscurity to a top position in government. Will they follow the king's stated desire for succession? Or will a power struggle develop as the prince's claim to the throne is challenged?

Such a plot might merely make for a diverting summer read if the country involved wasn't North Korea. The country is in a steep economic decline with widespread deprivation, is technically at war with South Korea (a war it started that cost 34,000 American lives), is widely believed to possess nuclear devices, and is still a tightly closed bastion of Stalinism. It has lost the only leader it has had since its formation after World War II and is under threat of economic sanctions regarding its nuclear program. Moreover, its regime is seen as responsible for terrorist actions that include a bomb that killed several members of the South Korean Cabinet and the mid-air bombing of a Korean Airlines jet in 1987.

Although some analysts have pointed with hope to the smooth transition so far, others say such hopes are premature. …

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