Where is Kim Jong-un?

Has there been a coup in North Korea?

Where is Kim Jong-un?

He has not been seen in public for nearly 40 days. There is increasing speculation that there has been a coup in North Korea.

Foreign Policy analyses the situation:

It’s now been 36 days since Kim Jong Un was last seen in public. Is his absence good for North Korea and the threat it poses to the rest of the world? Or should we hope that he returns?

Most North Korea experts seem to believe that he soon will indeed end his absence — or that he will at least give a signal of his continued grip on power. Oct. 10, which marks the country’s Party Founding Day, has been cited as a possible time for his return. By contrast, many Western news sources — or at least their headlines — are speculating that Kim has met with a serious illness, or been ousted in a coup. Headlines like theGuardian‘s “Kim Jong Un: Has the North Korean Dynasty Fallen?” abound.

Setting aside for now the impossible question of where Kim has gone — Pyongyang’s state-run media say he is sick, though he could also be under house arrest, dead, on vacation, or simply bored of appearing in public — North Korea is arguably much more stable with Kim at the helm. (First, the eternal caveat when writing about North Korea: The country is more opaque than an eye afflicted with cataracts, so much of what I’m writing is speculation.)

The most dangerous thing about North Korea is its unpredictability. Because we know so little about what Pyongyang wants, or why it does what it does, it’s difficult to prepare for contingencies. North Korea has recently taken several steps to improve its ability to fire missiles at the United States: It has upgraded its main rocket-launch site, increased production of fissile material, and tested engines for a missile that could reach U.S. territory. Military planners and decision-makers in the U.S. government — and in other countries — need to be able to predict the likelihood that Kim will launch an attack on their country.

If Kim is no longer on control then who is?

[I]f Kim is or will soon be dead or deposed, his successor would have far less legitimacy. Kim Il Sung, who ruled from 1948 until his death in 1994, is a universally beloved figure in North Korea whose personality cult underpins the state’s existence. Some of that popularity was passed to his son, Kim Jong Il, who in turn legitimized his son, Kim Jong Un. According to the mythology of the Kim clan, the family exists to protect the country’s existence in a fraught, dangerous world. If Kim Jong Un has or will be deposed — and won’t function as a figurehead — the new leaders will need to establish credibility in the eyes of North Koreans, most of whom have spent their entire lives ruled by a member of the Kim bloodline.

It’s likely that North Korea’s new leaders would crack down domestically and lash out internationally, at least initially, as they consolidated power. More missile launches, nuclear tests, and mass purges could ensue.

Even if a Kim family member took control — the Global Post speculates that Kim Jong Un’s little sister Kim Yo Jong may be running the country in Kim’s absence — he or she would still lack the legitimacy of Kim Jong Un, who has been the subject of a multiyear propaganda campaign throughout North Korea.

Surely North Korea and the world would be better off without him?

In the long term, Kim’s fall would probably be a good thing. It would likely lead to reunification with South Korea, giving North Koreans good governance, higher living standards, access to the outside world, and basic human rights. But in the short term it could lead to civil war, another famine, and possibly the sale of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to rogue states or a terrorist group.

Hmm…oh well we will see soon enough.

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