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What's Next for North Korea

On Sunday night -- Monday morning in Pyongyang -- North Korean state television announcers sobbed their way through announcing news that Kim Jong-Il had died.

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On Sunday night -- Monday morning in Pyongyang -- North Korean state television announcers sobbed their way through announcing news that Kim Jong-Il had died. The 69-year-old lead had a heart attack on a train due to "great mental and physical strain" at 8:29 a.m. on Saturday, December 17, and while it's unclear why it took so long for the news to be announced, a "special broadcast" reported that an autopsy "fully confirmed" the diagnosis, according to the Associated Press. It's not entirely clear what happens next, though. Kim Jong-Un, the 27-year-old son of the "supreme leader" and a four-star general, was being groomed to take over for his father, who's been in poor health since he had a stroke in 2008. Inevitably, the future of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea depends on more than the leader, however. South Korea (and Japan) prepared their military following the announcement, and the people have begun an official period of mourning from December 17th to the 29th. As the rest of the world prepares for what's next, it's hard not to look over our shoulder to the Kim Jong-Il's problematic legacy.

The News

Statement from the White House Press Secretary
"We are closely monitoring reports that Kim Jong Il is dead. The President has been notified, and we are in close touch with our allies in South Korea and Japan. We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies."

Asian stock markets lower amid news of Kim Jong Il death, worries about Europe debt crisis - The Washington Post

Kim Jong Il’s death – How DPRK websites broke the news - North Korea Tech
"A familiar newscaster dressed in black appears on screen and makes a tearful announcement: Kim Jong Il is dead. When North Korean state TV and radio broke the news at noon on Monday they had already given advance notice that a major announcement was coming. Its delivery was an attempt to set a national mood of mourning."

North Korea Fires Off Missile As Kim Jong-Il Dies - Spencer Ackerman, Wired
"The nuclear weapons enthusiast and pornography aficionado who inherited the Stalinist state known as North Korea from his daddy is dead. And no sooner did Kim Jong-il pass from the earth than his military practiced the belligerence Kim preached: it test-fired a missile. Subtle."

North Koreans' reaction to Kim Jong-il's death is impossible to gauge - Justin McCurry, The Guardian
"Hours after a female presenter, dressed in black traditional dress, delivered the news, a live stream of North Korean TV showed occasional news "bulletins" extolling the virtues of the departed 'Dear Leader'. Most airtime, though, was filled with sweeping mountain vistas, gaudy sunsets and black clouds rolling ominously across an unmistakably North Korean landscape, all to the accompaniment of forbidding choral and military music."

The Obituaries

Kim Jong-Il, North Korean leader, dies - The New York Times
"Called the “Dear Leader” by his people, Mr. Kim, the son of North Korea’s founder, remained an unknowable figure. Everything about him was guesswork, from the exact date and place of his birth, to the mythologized events of his rise in a country formed by the hasty division of the Korean Peninsula at the end of World War II."

Farewell, earthlings - The Economist
Kim’s declining health had prompted the regime to accelerate progress towards the planned succession of his third son, Kim Jong Un. The report itself exhorted viewers to “loyally follow” the Swiss-educated, would-be third-generation leader, whom his father chose ahead of two elder sons, apparently due a ruthless streak that runs beneath his pudgy features."

Kim Jong Il, North Korean leader, dies - The Guardian
"Kim had clearly begun grooming his son Kim Jong-un to take control of the "hermit state", long a source of concern in the region because of its nuclear programme. But there have long been doubts about how easy it will be for the younger man - thought to be in his late 20s - to continue the Communist dynasty founded by Kim Jong-il's father Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994."

Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died - The Washington Post
"Traffic in the North Korean capital was moving as usual Monday, but people in the streets were in tears as they learned the news of Kim’s death. A foreigner contacted at Pyongyang’s Koryo Hotel said hotel staff were in tears."

Kim Jong-Ils nukes, threats stoked world fears - The Associated Press
"Even with a successor, there had been some fear among North Korean observers of a behind-the-scenes power struggle or nuclear instability upon the elder Kim's death."

The Future

The Rise of Kim Jong-Un - Ken E. Gause, Foreign Policy
"What would the post-Kim Jong Il era mean for the stability of North Korea? Although few experts foresee a collapse of the regime, many wonder whether the senior leadership will hold together or fall prey to factionalism. Jang's agreement to support Kim Jong-un apparently unifies the key individuals within the regime. For this reason, many Pyongyang watchers think the succession is already a done deal.

North Korea’s ‘Dear Young General’ Has Made His Mark - Choe Sang-Hun, The New York Times
"It is a telling sign of who is the rising star in North Korea: state-run television showing octogenarian party secretaries bowing to a man their grandchildren’s age before accepting the smiling man’s handshake or kowtowing to his instructions."

Kim Jong Il Is Dead; What's Next for North Korea? - J.J. Gould, The Atlantic 
"Three years ago, in the fall of 2008, after reports emerged that Kim might recently have suffered a stroke, Atlantic contributing editor B.R. Myers weighed in amid the cresting global speculation on what will happen in North Korea after its Dear Leader's eventual death."

North Korea's Future in Question - Al Jazeera English

The History

I Was Kim Jong Il's Chef - Kenji Fujimoto, The Atlanic
"The author, who writes under a pseudonym, is a Japanese sushi chef. In 1982, at the invitation of a Japanese-North Korean trading company, he started working in a sushi restaurant in Pyongyang. In 1988 he agreed to serve as Kim Jong Il's personal chef—a job he held until 2001. In April of that year, having realized the extent of the paranoid and oppressive surveillance he was under, he escaped to Japan"

Nothing Left: Is North Korea finally facing collapse? - Barbara Demick, The New Yorker
"When a classmate of Song-hee’s confided, a few months later, that she planned to escape from North Korea in just two days, Song-hee impulsively accepted an invitation to go with her. Song-hee’s home was less than an hour’s walk from the Tumen, where her friends used to swim. Song-hee, who is afraid of the water, sat on the banks of the river, watching and fantasizing. Like the others, she wanted to see the world."

Alone In the Dark: Kim Jong Il plays a canny game with South Korea and the U.S. - Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker
"In North Korea, however, the truth has never been a matter of fact so much as an expression of the Kims’ whim—father and son. The great preponderance of this so-called truth is a confection of outright lies—not merely false but, more perniciously, a form of unreality, imposed with such relentlessness and violence on a people hermetically sealed from any alternative sources of information that it has become their only reality."

The Country

Inside North Korea - Alan Taylor, The Atlantic

The Vice Guide to North Korea - VBS TV

A View of Hunger in North Korea - The New York Times

North Korea's First Cruise - Edward Wong, The New York Times

…We'll continue to update this post as the news develops

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.