North Korea Post-Kim Jong-Un: What Happens After?

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Author: Quinta Allaya Emirsyah

In April, the report of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s alleged death after a botched heart surgery had created a buzz in the international community. However, the news was debunked by his public reappearance three weeks later in an opening ceremony of a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang. Still, his absence during that period had triggered a series of fevered rumors regarding who would become his successor had he truly died. Thus, this raises a hypothetical question – what will happen to the hermit kingdom once Kim really pass away?

Unlike his predecessors, Kim Jong Un has no heir apparent. His children were too young to govern, though there might be a slim possibility that one of them will become his successor in the future. The more well-known option is his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, which is said to be the closest inheritor to the North Korean dictatorship. She has been Kim Jong Un’s most trusted aide, especially as the nation’s propagandist-in-chief, as she was often seen by her brother’s side in both domestic and international events. However, the highly patriarchal culture of the country has raised skepticism regarding her accession to the power since it will surely be doubted by the North’s male-dominated regime leaders.

Hence, the first thing that a post-Kim Jong Un North Korea will face is a succession crisis. If Kim Jong Un dies or is permanently incapacitated, the sudden loss of supreme leader could cause a political vacuum, or according the wise words of author Ji Eun Baek, “North Korea without a successor from the Kim family is like worshippers going to church without a deity to worship.”


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