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The news of the death of the leader of the leader of North Korea came as an unwelcome shock to the people of East Asia, prompting a 5% fall on the South Korean stock exchange and the rise of fears of instability in the DPRK as a result of the sudden announcement.
The direction of the DPRK from here rests largely on how securely the succession of Kim's third son, Kim Jong Un, has been set in place. If Kim Jong Il has failed to adequately prepare the ground for his son's ascension, or if elements of the population or military decide to seize this opportunity to attempt to contest the Kim regime's hitherto secure grip on power, the North, and possibly even the wider region, could potentially be plunged into instability. The latter scenario is also a possibility if further external provocations, similar to the attacks on Yeonpyeong and the Cheonan take place as result of instability and /or power struggles within the North.
The death of Kim Jong Il has given an opportunity to the people of the DPRK to rise up against the regime, and whether such an oppressed people will be able to exploit the opportunity they have been provided with, will again rest largely on the solidity of the succession. It remains to be seen whether the death of Kim Jong Il will be an opportunity for the DPRK to reform, either with or without Kim Jong Un, or whether the succession proves to be the last, and possibly the greatest, of Kim Jong Il's many failures as leader of the DPRK.
Dr Tom French is the U K Defence Forum Research Co-ordinator covering North Korea. As part of the 2011 Wikistrat Grand Strategy Competition, a team from thye U K Defence Forum carried out extensive analyses of North Korea. These are published as a Regional Studies series which can be found at www.ukdf.org.uk