The Man Who Would Be Kim

Kim Il Sung with his son Kim Jong Il. Reuters


The Korean peninsula has entered a period of grave uncertainty. The death of North Korean President Kim Il Sung on July 8 came at a critical moment. The United States had just resumed talks to probe whether North Korea would abandon its nuclear weapons program in return for diplomatic recognition and economic assistance. With Kim's death, the answer to that question, which will define the fate of not only the North but the entire peninsula, fell into the untested hands of his son, Kim Jong Il. It is a question that this oddly reclusive man cannot hope to answer. Having assumed power when he did, the younger Kim is caught in a bind that only his father might have had the power, if not the wisdom, to break.

Kim Jong Il's dilemma is this: the North's increasing isolation and impoverishment make political and economic reform imperative; but Kim

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