Death of a Dictator

The North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died yesterday after suffering a heart attack.  He was 69 years old.

North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a highly militarized nation with an extremely low ranking for human rights and high focus on nuclear weapons.  Kim Jong Il amended the country’s constitution in 2009 so that he may be called the “Supreme Leader”, truly demonstrating an autocracy rather than a democracy.  The power resided absolutely in Kim Jong Il, not in the equal say of the citizens, despite what the name of the country may suggest.  In that same 2009 revision of the nation’s constitution, the word “communism” was removed from certain articles describing the country’s governmental structure, but the US Department of State categorizes the government of North Korea as a "highly centralized communist state."

Kim Jong Il’s son, Kim Jong Un, has been prepared to become successor and was announced as such during the North Korean news broadcast that informed the country of its leader’s passing.  His death has left the country and its citizens in a state of mourning.  The reporter who broadcasted the announcement was holding back tears and shaking, clearly in emotional distress, representing not only her feelings but also those of the nation.  There is speculation that due to the militaristic dictatorship of North Korea, that the citizens are expected to mourn, as there may be too much fear of punishment not to mourn the death of the dictator.  The country itself is very shut off from interaction with much of the rest of the world, so it is likely the people do not even understand the grave oppression under which they live their lives.  

According to the Wall Street Journal, Kim Jong Il was able to keep control of his country’s 24 million people by “limiting their access to information and their ability to travel and earn wealth and maintaining a system of gulag-like prison camps, massive in scale and horrific in condition, to instill fear.”

North Korea really only has one relationship and ally with another country that has been cultivated, and that is with China.  South Korea, Japan, and the United States are thought as enemies to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  There have been reports of nuclear missiles firing off the coast of North Korea, so government officials from South Korea and the US have been in contact to monitor the situation in North Korea, as it may become unstable following Kim Jong Il's death.  The instability is highly dangerous, especially with the nuclear weaponry that the US has long been trying to disengage.