October 05, 2022

Preventing violence in a post-Kim North

Forward-thinking needed to assess Pyongyang’s alternative leadership futures

How would Kim Jong Un’s removal from power affect the likelihood of North Korean violence against the United States or South Korea, and what might be done to prevent such violence?

This should be the single most important question for policymakers, and yet it seems to be the least addressed question in the public discourse on North Korea. Approaching the question as a strategist – by considering the range of potential futures based on extant evidence – would empower Korea watchers to transcend the status quo bias that so often plagues Korea analysis and structure an approach to the question that allows us to avoid both speculation and point predictions. Upon examining the range of potential North Korean leadership futures, the two types of scenarios most likely to give rise to North Korean violence are a military takeover and an internal competition for power involving competing factions.