WHAT happens next in North Korea (or more properly, if dishonestly, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) following the death of its “dear leader”, Kim Jong Il? Frankly, Cassandra has no idea—a state of ignorance, such is the isolation of the country, which is virtually universal.
We should, I suppose, be alarmed. The “hermit kingdom” must surely be one of the world’s most awful countries: stricken with frequent famine and ruled by a dictatorial regime with a history of nastiness both at home and abroad (remember, for example, the 1983 attempt in Rangoon to assassinate the president of South Korea and the 1987 bomb that downed a South Korean airliner). It also, of course, has long-range missiles and nuclear bombs, though not yet, apparently, the ability to marry the two. In other words, no one—not even their Chinese allies—is anxious to mess with the North Koreans.
Yet the paradox is that it is hard to take the North seriously. As The World in 2012 points out, Kim Il Sung, the “great leader” who was the North’s founding father, is, in fact, immortal and will in 2012 celebrate his 100th birthday. And, as The World in 2011 pointed out, his grandson, Kim Jong Un (pictured), is a podgy, Swiss-educated lover of basketball—just the sort of man to be the North’s new dictator, and even perhaps a villain in a new James Bond movie. Whether he is the sort of man to bring his country in from the cold is, of course, far from certain.