Kim Jong-il died at 70 years old on Dec. 17, ending a 17-year reign as dictator of North Korea. His youngest son Kim Jong-un was selected by him to be the next successor, and will be taking power shortly. As this is likely to reshape the government policies of North Korea drastically, the international community should take steps to continue the spirit of the Arab Spring and Occupy uprisings. With the advent of the Internet and more recently social media and Wikileaks, the time has never been better to promote change.
It’s naturally easy to be pessimistic about the future of North Korea. Kim Jong-un is likely to be similar in most respects to his father, expanding the nuclear arsenal further while letting much of its population starve. Its foreign policy will likely be similar as well, speaking with foreign governments on occasion but seldom making any tangible progress towards improving the lives of those hungry and oppressed.
But the outside world should take advantage of this rare opportunity. As Kim Jong-un will be only the third leader since the fission of North and South in 1948, this will be a rare opportunity for major change when the time is so ripe. As the media is so tightly controlled there, there is not likely to be a spark like the Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia that set off the Arab Spring uprisings. They don’t have access to such things as Wikileaks, which is believed by some to have sparked Bouazizi’s rage as an underlying contributor to his tipping point from corruption experienced during his tenure as a fruit vendor, as mentioned in a NYT article.
Unlike in Tunisia, North Koreans aren’t going to do it themselves. It’s going to take action in the outside world to improve the conditions there and eventually reunify the Korean peninsula, and the first step is to end the apathy towards the North Koreans’ oppression. With the exception of Kim Jong-il’s death and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island late last year, North Korea seldom makes the headlines despite its uniquely oppressive and secretive regime. With the unprecedented momentum from the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, it’s time for a third uprising from afar, one that can eventually transcend into North Korea and liberate its people after scores of oppression.