The death of North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il and subsequent actions taken by the isolationist state’s government have left students with conflicting positions on the situation.
The year 2012 is significant in many ways. For one, Kim Jong Il’s son and successor Kim Jong Un has assumed his father’s position as dictator. Not much is known about the younger Kim, and many are hoping he would take action to improve the conditions in North Korea and even engage in reunification talks with South Korea. Others are also optimistic at the prospect that international intervention may prove more successful now, since the new leader has yet to establish as strict of a control over the government and the citizens as his predecessor did.
In addition, April 15 marks the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, and the North Korean government, contrary to the hopes of many, urged its people to honor the year with prosperity and victory in its New Year’s message. It also called on the populace and the army to defend Kim Jong Un to death, and made it clear to the rest of the world not to expect any changes.
Some students, like Rini Sampath, a senior at Northwood High School, think that change indeed is unlikely to happen.
“Often, when the son takes over, they’re even more ruthless because they’re younger, crazier, and have been spoiled by their parents,” Sampath said. “I think North Korea will always be under such a dictatorship unless there’s a coup or a rebellion, like the Arab Spring.”
Others, however, hold less absolutist views about the possible improvement of conditions in North Korea.
“It’s hard to say if positive change will come out since the mythmaking of Kim Jong Un has already started,” Franklin Zhang, a junior at Northwood High School, said. “[But] there is a hope.”
On a similar note, other students also address the possibility of change for the better; however, they also take a more rational approach to the situation.
“I think North Korea has the potential to improve since Kim Jong Un isn’t as close to the North Korean people as Kim Il Sung and more information about democratic societies enter North Korea,” Youngha Hwang, a senior at Northwood High School, said. “However, no matter what anyone here speculates or hopes for, everything comes down to if the North Korean people want a revolution. We can’t force or demand them [to do anything]. We can only be there to support them should they choose to [take action].
Due to the lack of information about the new leader, some students are reserving judgment.
“We don’t know much about Kim Jong Un at the moment, so I don’t think we can judge yet how the situation in North Korea will change,” Katie Hahm, a junior at Northwood High School, said. “I do hope, though, that Kim Jong Un will realize what his successors did wrong. Even if he doesn’t completely reform North Korea, I hope he will bring about some positive change.”