Expert: North Korean Inherited Power Being Closely Watched Worldwide

North Korea is probably the least understood and most isolated country in the world and leaders across the globe are hoping for a “soft landing” to the transfer of power.

Pitch

North Korea is probably the least understood and most isolated country in the world and leaders across the globe are hoping for a “soft landing” to the transfer of power.

 

Expert

Tibor Nagy (pronounced Nahzh), vice provost for international affairs and former ambassador to both Ethiopia and Guinea, (806) 742-3667, tibor.nagy@ttu.edu. Cell phone also available.

 

Talking Points 

  • North Korea is the only hereditary Communist dictatorship in the world.
  • It is probably the least understood and most isolated country in the world – even its powerful neighbor, China, has no real insight into the Pyongyang regime’s dynamics.
  • When Kim Jong Il replaced his own father, Kim Il Sung, the transition took three years until the younger Kim was able to exert full control over the state.
  • The new generation is more urbane and globally oriented (in a positive way) – many were educated outside North Korea – including, Kim Jong un, who went to prep school in Switzerland.

 

Quotes 

  • “The best possibility would be a smooth transition with the new leadership opening up North Korea to the world and undertaking a modernizing transformation – much like what the current Burmese regime has finally decided to do. Unfortunately, this rosy scenario is highly unlikely. This time, no one can be certain of the outcome. Of the various scenarios, most are negative.”
  • “All regimes contain various factions jockeying for power and advantage.  Kim Jong Il’s sudden death will unleash these forces, and the designated heir – given his inexperience and relative youth – may or may not be able to deal with these rivalries. The problem is, the third generation is just starting to enter power. So there is a generational struggle which may still have to play out in the regime, and the old guard may still win.”
  • “It is likely that the transition will be messy and could be long.  North Korea could be self-absorbed and introspective – as it was during the last transition – or, if the internal fighting becomes especially nasty, it could look for a distraction by doing something provocative with South Korea.  This is where our lack of knowledge and understanding of North Korea becomes dangerous, because the bottom line is that North Korea is a nuclear state. So if it acts in an aggressive manner, we don’t have the luxury to try and guess whether it’s posturing or genuinely threatening our ally South Korea’s existence.”
  • “The nightmare scenario for everyone, including China and Russia, would be the self destruction of the North Korean state, which would send millions of refugees into those two countries (as well as South Korea).  Given all these uncertainties, it’s definitely a time for very close consultation among the US, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan – it’s in everyone’s national interest for a ‘soft landing.’”