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Council on Foreign Relations Korea Update
January 2012

Leadership Transition in North Korea

Ken Gause

CNA senior research analyst Ken Gause discusses power politics and the leadership transition in North Korea.

On December 17, 2011, Kim Jong-il's seventeen-year rule came to an end as he reportedly succumbed to a heart attack. Nearly fifty hours after the event, the North Korean propaganda apparatus sprang into action, informing the world of Kim's passing and proclaiming Kim Jong-un, twenty-nine years old, the "great successor." Moving at a rapid pace, the transition of power appears to have gone smoothly as the young Kim received the titles of supreme leader (ch'eogo ryo'ngdoja) and supreme commander (Choson inmin'gun ch'oego) of the armed forces. An entirely different set of signals has highlighted what appears to be a collective leadership that will advise Kim and facilitate his consolidation of power. Read the Full Report


North Korea After Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-nam and the Question of North Korea’s Leadership Stability

Scott A. Snyder discusses Kim Jong-un's older brothers Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-chol, and the important questions their fates raise about the North Korean leadership. Read the Blog »

Kim Jong-un Survivability Scorecard: What to Look For

What is the durability and sustainability of the North Korean leadership under Kim Jong-un? To answer these questions, Snyder provides a scorecard to judge how the succession is being managed. Read the Blog »

End-of-a-Lifetime Chance

Snyder discusses the prospects for a unified, nuclear-free Korea. Read the Article »

Deja-vu in North Korea? Succession in 1994 vs. 2011

While North Korea may have a template for succession, conditions in 2011 differing from those that existed in 1994 may prove fatal to Kim Jong-un's rule, argues Snyder. Read the Blog »

The Myanmar Element

With the emerging U.S.-Myanmar rapprochement, North Korea may lose its rare and strategic ally, argues Joshua Kurlantzick. Read the Blog »

From the Asia Unbound Blog

Time for the U.S.-Japan-South Korea Virtual Alliance to Get Real?

The idea of strengthening the U.S.-Japan-South Korea relationship has great potential, but it has also been frustratingly slow to materialize in practice, argues Snyder. Read the Blog »

The Top Ten Events that Shook Asia in 2011

Elizabeth C. Economy and Adam Segal highlight the physical and political tremors that characterized Asia in 2011—shaking India, China, and Thailand, waking up Burma, and further unsettling North Korea. Read the Blog »

What to Expect in Asia in 2012

As domestic politics take command amid new challenges to growth in Asia in 2012, Evan A. Feigenbaum highlights the risks, opportunities, and emerging patterns that he believes will shape the region. Read the Blog »

CFR's Korea Program in the News

The Atlantic: "What's Behind the Video of Korean Soldiers' Freak-Out Over Girl Group" (January 11, 2012)

CNN: "Danger Ahead with Untested Leader?" (January 6, 2012)

VOA: "Will Power Transition in North Korea Stay on Script?" (December 23, 2012)



The Program on U.S.-Korea Policy

The program on U.S.-Korea policy was established at the Council on Foreign Relations in September 2011. It aims to strengthen the U.S.-Korea relationship by providing relevant policy recommendations and promoting dialogue on sensitive bilateral, regional, and global issues facing the two countries. The program acknowledges the generous support it has received from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Korea Foundation, and South Korean private sponsors, including Hyundai Motors, Korea International Trade Association, and the Federation of Korean Industries. It also acknowledges with thanks additional support received from individual donor Sandor Hau.

Scott A. Snyder, Director
Follow @snydersas on Twitter

Darcie Draudt, Research Associate


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