The enigmatic dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, died Saturday, age 69. The streets of Pyongyang are full of people weeping and grieving for their “dear leader” (as he was known). Abroad, there’s disquiet about possible instability in this poor, isolated country that also happens to have nuclear arms at its disposal. What does it mean, for example, that Kim’s chosen successor, his 27-year old son, Kim Jong-un or “bright leader” does not have the support of the military?
Here at Latitude News we’ve put together a selection of what media around the world is saying about Kim Jong-il’s death.
Kim Jong-il’s last public outing, according to the popular South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo,was to the country’s first ever supermarket built, allegedly, with Chinese investment.
China has been North Korea’s closest ally. And China’s leaders have been preparing for this moment of transition, as the country’s independent news group Caixin Media explains. They’ve been pushing North Korea to adopt Chinese-style economic reforms in the hope that greater economic prosperity will bring more stability.
“The results of this recent push,” writes Lea Yu, “are already evident: In North Korea’s Rason Special Economic Zone, the Chinese company Yanbian Tianyu International Trade Company is quadrupling the size of a bazaar market, while Chinese workers have also spent five months widening and paving the roads from Jilin Province’s Hunchun to North Korea’s Rajin.”
In Japan,Asahi Shimbun’s English edition wrote that there was sure to be uncertainty about the leadership transition from father to son. But Kazuhisa Ogawa, a military analyst in Japan, said that “the North is moving toward a stable direction,” and he felt it unlikely that there would be military unrest in North Korea.
Uncertainy, but not yet unrest
BBC News has comprehensive coverage of the latest news from North Korea as well as reports on what every day life is like inside the country and a family tree for the very secretive ruling family.
BBC Radio’s most popular drive time morning show Today broadcast a discussion about possible instability. Our top takeaway: that it’s too cold (10 degrees Fahrenheit) for anyone to organize a mass protest.
There’s analysis from Australia and Canada. For a good overall view of Kim Jong-il’s grim legacy, read the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Asia Pacific editor Hamish McDonald. According to McDonald, “North Korea will move into a shadowy period of effective control by its army generals and would-be dynastic regents after the death of its dictator Kim Jong-il, possibly making it less adventurous.” The Toronto Globe and Mail’s International Affairs and Security correspondent Paul Koring, meanwhile, argues that Kim’s death offer opportunities to President Obama to balance China’s influence in Asia. “For longtime allies,” he writes, “like Japan and South Korea, Washington’s handling of the unfolding North Korean transition will also test whether Mr. Obama’s new Pacific doctrine can deliver results, not just rhetoric. Both risks and opportunities will be greater if – as many expect – Pyongyang is riven with factions struggling behind the scenes for power.”
The weird pull of Kim Jong-il
Alongside the weighty analysis there are also some offbeat stories that point up the fascination this shadowy figure has held for Westerners.
In France’s leading online magazine rue89, there’s a piece about how Kim Jong-il became a pop culture icon – mainly in the U.S.
There’s also the true life story of the Italian computer expert and part time pizza baker who was summoned from his home in northern Italy to teach pizza making to three military officers in a spotless clinic in Pyongyang. And this at a time when people were dying of starvation in the country at large.