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On October 29, a South Korean border post was fired upon. On November 23, 2010, North Korea fired 200 artillery shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing 2 soldiers and 2 civilians. It was then learned that, right before the attack, Kim Jong-Il and Jong-Un met with the top military officials in the area where the rounds were fired from, including the battalion that launched the attack.
This series of events draws a strong correlation between steps in the succession process and aggressive action on the part of the regime. Now that Kim Jong-Un has officially taken over, obviously biggest step in the process, more provocations are very likely on the way. Indeed, the announcement was immediately followed by the firing of a short-range missile.
The enemies of North Korea face a serious dilemma. The regime is a threat and it is encouraging to see it become weakened. However, the provocations will become more severe as those weaknesses grow.
The North Korean population and elements of the military are becoming much more rebellious. In November 2009, the regime unveiled currency reform plans that enraged the population. In an extremely rare challenge, protests and open criticism erupted. Remarkably, the regime backed down and apologized. Kim Jong-Il had an advisor executed shortly thereafter. Then in February 2011, market traders protested after promised goods did not arrive. The security forces beat one man unconscious, sparking dozens of more citizens to participate, resulting in larger clashes.
Over half of the North Korean population now consumes foreign news, breaking the information blockade that has held the regime in power and maintained the leaders’ personality cult. Even some North Korean soldiers near the South Korean border are watching South Korean movies and television shows and selling pornographic DVDs. One was arrested for taking part in a pornographic film, and another for explaining the democratic South Korean political system to his fellow soldiers after learning about it through a radio broadcast.
The North Korean regime has become weaker and more unstable. Its population is eager to learn about the realities of the world, instead of the propaganda they are force-fed. The loyalty of the military to Kim Jong-Un is in question. He will respond to these problems with repression and aggression and the West should get ready for it.
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