Is The Dictator Of North Korea Alive

Examining Kim Jong Un

Among the world’s most mysterious leaders, Kim Jong Un, the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to elude the public eye. Since assuming power in 2011, Kim Jong Un has been the primary focus of much speculation and analysis. The primary question all global watchdogs have been asking is whether, or not, Kim Jong Un is still alive.

Throughout his tenure, Kim has been known to intermittently disappear from the public eye, usually without notice. Thus, with no recent public appearances, the world is uncertain as to his state of health. In an effort to quell their worries, the government of North Korea has insisted that the Supreme Leader is in fact still alive.

Academics and experts on the region have weighed in on different sides of the debate. Oleg Lukin, a North Korean analyst, claims that North Korea’s lack of official reports or a typical response to the rumors of Kim Jong Un’s death suggests that the reports may be true. On the contrary, Sorbonne professor Régis Rampart insists Kim Jong Un is not dead, and is instead, staying away from the public eye merely out of caution.

Despite the varying opinions and debates, one thing is for certain, the regional security of Northeast Asia and the rest of the world relies heavily on Kim Jong Un’s health status. His death or incapacitation creates a possible power vacuum in North Korea and that can cause serious geopolitical disruption and potentially, war.

Weaponization of Nuclear Weapons

As Supreme Leader and Head of the Korean Worker’s Party, Kim Jong Un is the final authority when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. All the while, the entire world is forced to speculate on Kim’s whereabouts, the future of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is unclear.

From 2013 through 2019, North Korea increased their nuclear stockpile significantly and also launched several long-range missile tests which has provided authorities with much to debate. These tests have exemplified North Korea’s ambition to further weaponize its nuclear weapons program, and have only further heightened tensions in the East Asian region.

Some analysts are of the opinion that with Kim Jong Un’s recent silence, it is highly likely that the country may proceed with more nuclear weapons tests. On the other hand, other analysts suggest that his absence may mean a rare chance for pause; removing the opportunity for advancement and aggression.

Financial analyst Justin Miller weighed in on the matter: “North Korea has always been a country that believes in its own nuclear might, and given that Kim Jong Un’s status is currently unknown, it is likely that his leadership will continue to pursue that mission.”

Challenges Facing North Korea

North Korea’s isolation is amplified by Kim’s disappearance and the country’s numerous economic and social challenges. From his father’s land reform policy, Kim is the leader of a country that is heavily reliant on its agricultural industry to maintain subsistence levels of nutrition for its citizens. This has been especially difficult in recent years with prolonged droughts, and other environmental issues disrupting output.

Furthermore, Kim Jong Un is a leader of a failed state with one of the lowest GDPs in the world. North Korea’s GDP per capita is roughly $1400 and only makes up 8.5% of the GDP East Asia-Pacific region. Analysts suggest that widespread poverty could play an integral role in dictating the nation’s stability moving forward.

Despite the numerous issues the country is facing, South Korean think tank The Institute for Peace and Unification suggests that the nation’s people have been relatively unphased by Kim’s absence. In a statement issued by the think tank, “The average DPRK citizen is not particularly interested in North Korea’s political situation and focus more on their individual economic struggle. We have yet not seen a noticeable interest in Kim Jong Un’s current situation.”

International Response

Whether or not Kim Jong Un is alive has been the primary concern for many global leaders and international organisations. With Kim’s acknowledged health issues and his absence from the public eye, China and the United States have been left with the dilemma of how to address the possibly of a power vacuum in North Korea.

At present, the United Nations (UN) is yet to officially respond to the rumors. However, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed noted, “The situation in North Korea has been largely unchanged.” She remarked that the lack of recent activities in the region have been concerning and have prompted the UN to continue to monitor the situation.

The international community has, and will continue to, watch the situation closely. Ultimately, North Korea’s future will depend on whether or not Kim Jong Un is still alive and the UN and all other parties must urge to figure out his current health or whereabouts.

Relationship Between US and DPRK

Despite the pervasive uncertainty, one thing is for certain- the relationship between North Korea and the United States is inseparable from resolving the current crisis. The current lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries does not bode well for any possible resolution, as both countries remain deeply entrenched in their own positions.

The development of any kind of working agreement between the United States and DPRK rests heavily on the health status of Kim Jong Un. While much of the rhetoric coming from the White House has been confrontational, it is within both governments mutual interests to resolve the current situation, whatever way it may turn out.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted: “It is of utmost importance that the North Korean leadership can get back to business and, at the same time, be in dialogue with the United States. “

With relations between the two countries at their current low, the world has been left to speculate the outcome of an official response to the current crisis and the potential future of North Korea and its people.

Humanitarian Aid to North Korea

While much of the world has been focused on the current state of Affairs, the global pandemic has heavily impacted the people of North Korea, as it has around the world. The International Trade Organization (ITO) has suggested the need for international aid to assist the people of North Korea during this difficult time. The ITO issued a statement calling on the international community to contribute to humanitarian efforts: “The people of North Korea must not be left to their own devices during this difficult time. All global actors should contribute as best they can in a manner unfettered by politics.”

North Korea has long been a recipient of international aid, and that is set to continue alongside the current crisis. The ITO’s initiative has already seen aid flooding into the country, with China, the United States, and Russia all contributing. They have suggested that the aid provided will mitigate the suffering of those already experiencing hardship and those who may potentially experience food shortages in the future.

International aid is one of the few ways global actors are able to interact with North Korea and its people, for which there is an acute need. While the international community can provide needed relief and development, it is ultimately up to the political leaders of each country, to pass official decisions that recognise and pacify the situation.

What Happens Next?

The future of North Korea, and it’s people, remains unknown. With Kim Jong Un’s health standing as the primary concern, speculation continues to abound as to his whereabouts and his ability to lead the country.

One thing is for certain the DPRK will be relying on its neighbours for the foreseeable future. China is likely to remain heavily involved, as the Chinese government pursues the interest of its national security. On the other hand, the United States and the other nations involved are likely to pursue a policy of maintaining the status quo, without further disruption to the regional balance of power.

Only time will tell whether or not Kim Jong Un is still alive, and what his status means for the people of North Korea and the region at large. While the situation is unlikely to resolve anytime soon, what global actors must address is the growing humanitarian and political issues that the country is facing. The future of North Korea hinges on the ability of global actors to provide stability and security to the region and its people.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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