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In the early hours of Friday 8 July 1994, Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s president and ‘Great Leader’ died. For a regime and a country which had known only one leader since the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea had been founded in 1948, his death eas a profound shock. After his death was finally announced, the following day, the streets of the capital were filled with apparently genuinely grieving North Koreans (1). Kim had spent the last years of his life elaborately preparing for Kim Jong-il, the son of his first wife, to succeed him. But, despite his extraordinary efforts to ensure the first ever-and probably the last-dynastic succession in the communist world, Kim Il-sung has left an uncertain legacy for his son and his people. Moreover, six months after his father’s death, Kim Jong-il has yet to be officially confirmed in either of his father’s two major posts-state president and general secretary of the ruling Korea Workers Party (KWP).

This paper attempts to analyse the dominant trends of the confusing, transitional political and economic situation in North Korea, by focusing on Kim Jong-il and the immediate succession issue, on the medium—term challenge to the regime in both political and economic terms, and on the attitudes and roles of South Korea and the surrounding powers. The likely impact on the prospects for reunification on the Korean peninsula will be discussed in conclusion.


CAPS Working Paper Series No.16 (1/95)

Recommended Citation

Bridges, B. (1995). Kim Jong-il and the future of North Korea (CAPS Working Paper Series No.16). Retrieved from Lingnan University website: