The death of a vicious dictator is normally a cause for cheer. In the case of Kim Jong Il, however, there is little to be happy about. The state that he created, and that will now be ruled by his son and other family members, is built on three rotten pillars. First, the nation gets hard cash through illicit activity such as trade in narcotics, bribes from America and her allies to stop its provocations, and the sale of nuclear and ballistic know-how to anyone willing to buy. Second, it represses its people, forcing them to work and to rely on the Kim family for subsistence. And finally, it relies on its nuclear-weapons program as the ultimate guarantee of survival.
This is the house that Kim Jong Un has inherited. We will doubtless soon hear from Kim-family apologists that we ought to proceed with caution. Doves in the United States will tell us that the younger Kim is perhaps someone we can deal with, that we should wait until he consolidates his power and see if he is more reform-minded.
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