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A Korea Whole and Free

Why Unifying the Peninsula Won’t Be So Bad After All

The unfinished New Yalu River bridge that was designed to connect China and North Korea, Dandong, China, September 11, 2016. Thomas Peter / Reuters

When Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founding ruler, died in 1994, many outside observers predicted that his state would die with him. That never happened, of course, and his son Kim Jong Il managed to keep the regime alive until his own death, in 2011. When his son Kim Jong Un took the reins that year, numerous Korea watchers again predicted a collapse. Once again, they were proved wrong. Despite its extreme poverty, North Korea is still very much alive and a major threat to its southern neighbor.

But cracks are appearing. Last December, Kim Jong Un took the unprecedented step of publicly executing his uncle Jang Song Thaek, the second most powerful official in the regime. Although Jang’s removal may help strengthen Kim’s rule in the short run, it could have the opposite effect in the long run, convincing North Korean elites that the 31-year-old heir to the

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