The fallout from the sudden death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il continues on both sides of the Korean border.
Five million North Koreans have turned out to publicly mourn the passing of their late leader, according to state media. Kim’s body lies in the state in Pyongyang, the country’s capital. However, that figure cannot be confirmed by independent sources. (The entire country has a population of only about 23-million).
Kim’s son, Kim Jong-un is believed to be the presumed successor and has led the public mourning ceremonies.
However, there are many mysterious aspects to the late leader’s death.
Jonathan Marcus, a BBC correspondent in Korea, pointed out that the U.S. was caught unaware of Kim’s death.
“U.S. analysts were still uncertain of Kim Jong-il's death some 48 hours after his demise early on Saturday morning,” he wrote.
“But was this an intelligence failure as such or rather just a demonstration of the limitations surrounding the gathering of intelligence about this secretive and reclusive country?”
Marcus added: “One former U.S diplomat says that there was good ‘strategic’ intelligence on the fact that Kim was ill and would likely not survive very long. But the diplomat admits that there was poor tactical intelligence as to when, exactly, he was going to die.”
Another mystery is how exactly did Kim Jong-il die and where and when? North Korean officials claimed that he died of a massive heart attack while riding on a moving train,
However, South Korean intelligence officials and military brass have determined that the train that Jong-il died on was stationary in Pyongyang station.
Another concern is just how ready is Kim Jong-un to take over a nuclear-armed state? Reuters reported that the young leader apparently has the full support of the nation’s army (which, amazingly, is the fifth largest force in the world).
Meanwhile in South Korea, North Korean defectors and their South Korean allies have launched large balloons across the border carrying propaganda leaflets. These documents reportedly criticize the ascension of Kim Jong-un to power and also detail the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news service, one of the people behind the balloon launch said: We will not sit idle while witnessing North Koreans suffer from oppression and hunger under autocratic leadership. We call on the South Korean government as well as the international community to support… North Koreans who struggle to walk out of the yoke of slavery by the Kim dynasty and to regain their freedom and human rights,”
South Korean President has sent his condolences to the people in the North, in contrast to 1994 when Seoul did not acknowledge the death of the prior North Korean leader and national founder Kim Il-sung.
I hope North Korea will overcome this well and peace on the Korean Peninsula will be maintained, Lee Myung-bak said in a statement.