SEOUL – The long-delayed meeting of North Korea’s ruling Worker’s Party is now underway, and comes at a time of severe tension between North Korea and the international community. It is widely expected that Kim Jong-il’s third son, Kim Jong-eun, will be appointed to a key position and be publicly announced as his father’s successor. There are also hints that a reshuffling of important positions within the Party will take place, allowing the presumed heir to form a new power base.
Whatever happens, and whoever turns out to be the new leader, North Korea most likely faces an unstable future. The cost of maintaining internal order will continue to rise as the system’s fundamental defects force the new leader to confront stark new challenges. Moreover, responsibility for managing that potential instability extends far beyond the leadership in Pyongyang.