Where does North Korea go from here?


The promotions of Kim Jong-un and his aunt Kim Kyong-hui last week prompted speculation about the future of the Kim family in North Korea, which we decided would be a good topic to focus on at the month’s First Wednesday.

We leave the decision about what to discuss at First Wednesdays until the week before in order to be current. The emphasis at these events is on discussion and debate rather than lectures from the front, so this should be a great opportunity ask questions and delve deeper into this issue.

With so little is known about North Korea we are delighted that we have an expert such as Aidan Foster-Carter, honorary senior research fellow in sociology and modern Korea at Leeds University, joining us to make sense of North Korea today and what impact recent developments may have on its future

Foster-Carter, who was quoted by Al Jazeera English and wrote an article in the Financial Times following the promotions of Kim Jong-un claims in that in the future "stability is far from guaranteed":

Three major faultlines – struggles for power, policy disputes (hawks versus doves), and who if anyone to align with internationally – may yet see the elite fractured. This is an anxious moment for North Korea, its neighbours and the world. Anything is possible, including regime collapse.

Only China has the "means and motive to save North Korea from itself," argues Foster-Carter

Already Beijing is investing in ports and mines. There is no question of occupation, but creeping “satellisation” is something else.

In theory that is galling, especially for Seoul. Yet if China quietly takes North Korea in hand and defangs this fierce little dinosaur, all concerned might breathe a sigh of relief.

Foster-Carter’s article provoked a response from Mr Joo il Kim of the European Union North Korean Residents Society, who claims in a letter that Foster-Carter’s prediction on North Korea becoming China’s satellite comes from "his ignorance" of North Korean nationalism.

Ordinary North Koreans and the ruling class are deeply humiliated by Kim Jong-il’s begging to China. Considering this strong nationalism, it is unlikely that North Korea will be China’s satellite no matter who becomes his successor.

In the end, South Korea will gradually absorb North Korea peacefully. That is our organisation’s aim and that is why we are working for human rights in the UK

If you want an opportunity to discuss this further, sign up now for what promises to be an interesting discussion.