Weekly Insights and Analysis

The Challenge of Preparing for Instability in North Korea

September 16, 2009

By Scott Snyder

In North Korea’s totalitarian system, political stability depends on the health of the leader more than on any other factor. For this reason, Kim Jong Il’s rumored health problems have drawn careful scrutiny since he failed to appear almost exactly one year ago at public events marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The possible policy implications of three scenarios related to North Korea’s succession process – a managed succession, a contested succession, and a failed succession – were analyzed in a Council on Foreign Relations Special Report released in January entitled “Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea,” by Paul Stares and Joel Wit.

See-Won Byun’s “North Korea Contingency Planning and U.S.-ROK Cooperation,” the latest report of The Asia Foundation’s Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, explores the policy coordination challenges the United States and South Korea are likely to face in the context of potential instability in North Korea. According to the report, contingency planning efforts were marginalized or neglected as a focal point for coordination under progressive South Korean administrations that prized engagement with North Korea over planning for possible North Korean instability. Read the full post.

Scott Snyder directs The Asia Foundation’s Center for U.S.-Korea Policy. Snyder blogged on Global Security about policy implications of three scenarios related to North Korea’s succession process and the task of responding to potential instability in North Korea. He can be reached at

Related locations: Korea
Related topics: Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, North Korea


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