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Kim Jong Il's death and the best-case scenario [The conversation]

While Kim Jong Il's death has North Koreans collapsing with grief, it has opinionators reflecting on the tyrant's impenetrable rule and asking what's next as newly anointed leader Kim Jong Eun steps into power
While Kim Jong Il's death has North Koreans collapsing with grief, it has opinionators reflecting on the tyrant's impenetrable rule and asking what's next as newly anointed leader Kim Jong Eun steps into power.

Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, wrote on his Facebook page:  

North Korea is by far the most repressive and totalitarian country I've ever visited; it makes Syria or Burma seem like democracies. In North Korea, homes have a speaker on the wall to wake people up with propaganda in the morning and put them to sleep with it at night. The handicapped are sometimes moved out of the capital so they won't give a bad impression to foreigners. And triplets, considered auspicious, are turned over to the state to raise. And now this nuclear armed country is being handed over to a new leader, presumably Kim Jong-un, still in his 20's. The last transition was a dangerous time, as Kim Jong Il tried to prove his mettle by challenging the world, and this one may be as well. Look out.

The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri marveled:

Kim spent a reported 25 percent of his country’s budget on Korea’s nuclear military and ambitions while his people were starving. He showed no apparent remorse for anything.

But all we could talk about was how silly he looked in those shoes.

CNN’s "GPS" asks, Can Kim's son survive? The site has an edited version of an article from the "Oxford Analytica Daily Brief," a global analysis and advisory firm, that warned:

Engineering his [son Kim Jong Eun's] succession was one of the dead leader’s key aims over the past few years. This concern saw his son receive a crash course on leadership. He was showcased at a rare party conference in September 2010; although still in his 20s, he was appointed a four-star general and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. State media has referred to him as a 'Brilliant Young General' and 'New Star General.' But the choice was a risky one: he has no known skills or achievements; he lacks the decades of apprenticeship that his father had before becoming ruler; the elite may fear entrusting their future to an inexperienced youth.

In Forbes, Paul Roderick Gregory pointed to the other people we should be focused on now:

The passing of a tyrant offers opportunities for change. In such a time, we should remember the poor suppressed people of North Korea and hope that some positive change is in store for them.

Now our work begins, wrote Repair_Man_Jack on RedState:

My best-case scenario for what happens next consists of a slow-motion surrender of the North Korean state to reality. We treat them well and feed their starving population, while a working group of Chinese, Russian and S. Korean officials gradually takes down the security apparatus and hopelessly incompetent North Korean bureaucracy. Japan and The United States would observe and help out without putting a stick into anyone’s eye by aggressively taking a lead role.

This would require a high degree of American moral suasion and diplomatic leadership to pull off. Let’s all hope we still have some of either still left.

The Christian Science Monitor’s editorial board agreed that the U.S. should be involved:

Fortunately, Mr. Obama has refocused his foreign policy on Asia, in large part to balance China's rising influence. That shift should now include renewing the US commitment to South Korea’s defense, even if Americans are more weary of possible overseas wars.

America's diligence in Asia has paid off well, especially with the expansion of democracies since the 1980s and the region's economic dynamism. The diligence must now be heightened toward North Korea, a sorry remnant of the communist era and the days when petty tyrants went largely unchecked.

RELATED:

North Korea's new course

PHOTOS: Kim Jong Il | 1942-2011

FULL COVERAGE: Kim Jong Il | 1942-2011

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Television screens reporting the death of Kim Jong Il are seen at an electronics store in Seoul on Dec. 19. Credit: Chiho Jeong / Bloomberg

 

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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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