So the Great Leader, Kim Jong-il, passed away over the weekend.  North Korean state media suggested it was from great mental and physical exhaustion, Wikipedia says it was a heart attack while he was on a train, and most of us think he was finally overpowered by his army of adorable Hummels.  Whatever the truth may be, we may never know – like most of the facts surrounding his life.

Many Americans have been asking me what the vibe is over here, and the answer has not changed much since I got the news over lunch yesterday – the vibe is that this is another day of drama from the north which basically doesn’t mean a hill of beans to those of us in the South.  Yes, there is a little anxiety over the unknown.  The army is on higher alert in case the “Great Successor,” Kim Jong-un, wants to prove himself.  Surprisingly, North Korea usually gives South Korea a couple of dark days every year – days of firing on islands or bombing ships or something – but this is the first in almost a year, and thankfully it was just the death of the guy who has been calling the shots.

There are a few ways this whole situation can play out.  1) Things will be about the same.  Kim Jong-un will take up his father’s crazy throne and continue to treat the citizens of North Korea as slaves/drones/robots.  He’ll continue to buy copious amounts of Hennessy, Hummels, and hugs from his comrades.  He’ll throw tiny temper tantrums, roaring at South Korea and the American Imperialists.  He’ll keep his people hungry, but in the end, nothing will really be different.  2) He’ll do something stupid, try to start invade S.K., at which point China, Russia, and the U.S./South Korea will start another war.  But none of the major powers here want to see that happen.  Nobody can afford a real war.  We’re too busy fighting dust storms in the middle east (oh hey, did anyone notice the troops are out of Iraq?  THANKS A LOT, Kim Jong-il).  3) He’ll do a terrible job at being a leader, and someone else in Korea will try to take over, creating in-fighting, and potentially a third party (China, Russia, or South Korea) will try to take over control of the area.  However, this seems like the least likely.

I’m sure someone who actually knows a lot more than me would tear my ideas to shreds and then offer a few better options.  But the point is this: American media is all about theatrics, and every single time something in North Korea happens, everyone wonders what’s going on over here and freaks out and asks me to come home – and nothing is really happening.  Of course something COULD happen at any time.  But nobody is going to waste their day thinking about their exit strategy (because we’ve already thought about it, and it’s not really fun to think about).  We’re going on with life until something REALLY happens.

Check out this link of North Korean refugees’ reactions to the death.

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