The media is rambling non-stop about North Korea. As usual, their broken record routine is just that, an endless repetition of the contemporary. To date no one I am aware of has asked the essential question: what happens after Kim Jong Un?
Don’t misunderstand me. Unlike many, I’ve spent a lot of time in South Korea. I’ve also read the accounts written by a handful of people fortunate enough to have escaped the brutal North Korean regime. (If you have not read these books you should.)
North Korea is a major threat and one that isn’t going to simply atrophy. If the regime in Pyongyang fell today, I’d be the first one headed to my local beer store to pick up some Hite and celebrate.
All the same, almost 15 years ago – yes it’s been that long – we deposed Saddam Hussein without a Plan B and C to use when Plan A went sideways. Unlike many, I’ve been to Iraq and would go again in a heartbeat. It was right to remove Saddam from power. Having worked with Iraqis and heard what Saddam did to them, it was absolutely right to depose his regime. It was shortsighted though to believe that with Saddam removed as the key center of gravity in Iraq that someone would immediately emerge to run things.
There never has and hopefully never will be a regime like North Korea’s. Juche, the governing ideology, is far more potent and pervasive than any ideology we have ever seen – radical Islam included. North Korea is like Saddam’s Iraq on steroids. In Saddam’s Iraq it was illegal to congregate in a group of four or more adults. In North Korea groups congregate based on a caste system or at the barrel of a gun.
So what happens if Kim Jong Un is gone?
Is there someone within the North Korean power structure waiting in the wings and willing to adopt a less belligerent tone? How aware are North Koreans of the real world outside their borders? If the regime falls and a coalition surges past the DMZ into North Korea, will the regime faithful disappear into the population to wage an insurgency that could spread into South Korea? What horrors will we find north of the DMZ?
Some will remember the fall of the Iron Curtain, and how shortly after extensive orphanages were discovered in Romania and other parts of the former Eastern Bloc. There may be more than a million North Koreans born and raised in what are essentially concentration camps – under juche, certain offenses are punishable through three generations.
We aren’t just poised on the precipice of nuclear war with North Korea. We are on the doorstep of what may be the largest humanitarian crisis in generations.
Image: Excerpted from: Monico Chavez – https://www.flickr.com/photos/129161834@N04/15512594079/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36594232