Shock, worry, uncertainty as LA’s Koreatown learns of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s death
AP via Washington Post
Many in the largest Korean enclave in the United States took word of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il with disbelief, saying it was a day they thought they’d never see. But when their shock wore off, most in Los Angeles’s Koreatown shifted to quiet concern for the future of their native country and its neighbor to the north.
“Kim Jong Il died? You’re sure about that? No way! I thought he was going to live forever!” said Brian Shin, a 30-year-old native South Korean as he smoked a cigarette in front of his high-rise apartment building on Wilshire Boulevard. He kept expressing doubts until his wife ran downstairs to tell him it was true.
But while he knew the event was huge, he didn’t think it would lead to significant changes.
Kim Jong Il death: Koreatown reacts with joy and worry
Los Angeles Times
In grocery stores, shopping plazas and all-night diners in L.A.’s Koreatown, the news of Kim’s death was greeted with both unrestrained joy and a deep sense of concern.
Yoon-hui Kim, a defector who fled North Korea about 10 years ago by crossing the border into China, said refugees were all on edge waiting to see what would happen next.
Many still have family back in North Korea and are deeply concerned about what fate their relatives may face in the immediate future, she said.
“It was no surprise, since we all knew he was ill,” said Kim, who is in her late 30s, but was careful with personal details about herself. “The most worrying is what will happen to the North Korean people.”
Kim said she felt the situation was particularly volatile and unpredictable because neither South Korea nor China would be in a position to influence the country.
“All we can do is wait and see,” she said.
OC Korean leaders react to Kim Jong Il’s death
Orange County Register
Korean leaders in Orange County are anticipating new “challenges” and “opportunities” after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang had just finished speaking at a Christmas gala for the Korean American military cadets in Buena Park when the news broke. He was cautiously optimistic.
“It’s important to monitor the situation as they unveil more information,” said Kang, who emigrated from Korea. “But in terms of human rights, his death is a very positive outcome for the people of North Korea.”
Irvine Councilman Steven Choi also attended the Christmas party. Choi said that although the Korean dictator’s regime was unstable, his presence at least ensured that a status quo would remain in place.
Now, he said, the South Korean military would be on high alert, and those with relatives in the Korean peninsula would have to brace for the possibility of conflict.
“I don’t think there is a positive or negative,” Choi said. “It’s a nervous time. It will bring about some new challenges and some new opportunities.” Choi emigrated from South Korea in 1968 and some of his family still lives there.
Hope, worry in Seattle after Kim Jong Il’s death
Leaders of Seattle’s Korean-American community reacted with a mix of fear and hope Sunday to the death of North Korea’s much-despised leader.
John Oh, president of the Seattle chapter of the National Unification Advisory Council, which wants to see the Korean peninsula peacefully reunited, couldn’t contain his relief — or his anxiety.
“This is great news to me,” said Oh, who was driven out of North Korea during the war in the 1950s. “I’m so glad to hear this dictator is dead. But now I’m worried about military action.
With Word of Leader’s Death, Come Tears on State TV
New York Times
As my colleagues Choe Sang-hun and David E. Sanger report, Kim Jong-il, the mysterious and mercurial dictator of North Korea, has died. The news ripped across the globe Sunday night after the country’s official news media proclaimed the leader dead by way of a tearful television announcer. The video above shows an anchorwoman who appears to be struggling through her emotions to deliver the news.
Young Heir Faces Uncertain Transition in North Korea
New York Times
With the abrupt death of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the fate of his isolated, nuclear-armed regime has dropped into the hands of his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, who is such an unknown that the world did not even know for sure what he looked like until last year.
But the biggest enigma may be whether the younger Mr. Kim will be able to hold onto power in this last bastion of hard-line Communism, much less prevent its impoverished economy from collapsing.
For now, the reclusive regime is acting true to form, offering few clues as to what, if any, changes the death of the dictator could bring. It does, however, appear to be offering the first glimmers of an answer to one question that has long dogged North Korea watchers: whether the powerful military and other parts of the nation’s small, privileged ruling elite would go along with the Kim family’s ambitions to extend its dynastic rule to a third generation.
Within hours of the announcement on Monday of his father’s death, North Korea’s ruling Workers Party released a statement calling on the nation to unite “under the leadership of our comrade Kim Jong-un.”
North Korea mourns dead leader, son is “Great Successor”
Reuters via Yahoo News
North Korea’s official KCNA news agency lauded Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un as “the outstanding leader of our party, army and people.”
A KCNA dispatch said North Koreans from all walks of life were in utter despair but were finding comfort in the “absolute surety that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un will lead and succeed the great task of revolutionary enterprise.”
But there was uncertainty about how much support the third generation of the North’s ruling dynasty has among the ruling elite, especially in the military, and concern he might need a military show of strength to help establish his credentials.
“Kim Jong-un is a pale reflection of his father and grandfather. He has not had the decades of grooming and securing of a power base that Jong-il enjoyed before assuming control from his father,” said Bruce Klingner, an Asia policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
North Korean Dynastic Succession Tested in Tapping Kim’s Son
The stability of nuclear-armed North Korea may hinge on whether its military and the family of deceased dictator Kim Jong Il agree that his little-known, twenty-something son can extend six decades of dynastic rule.
Kim Jong Un was named to high-level military and party posts in September 2010. Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack Dec. 17, groomed his son for succession by featuring him prominently at a party congress and having him meet with foreign dignitaries.
The younger Kim is slated to take the reins of an economy whose 24 million largely impoverished people — five percent of whom serve in the military — have almost no access to outside media and suffer from chronic malnutrition. North Korea shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear weapons program in the face of global sanctions and any sign of concessions from the new leader could undermine his position.
“It’s not going to be an easy succession,” said Hong Yung Lee, a professor of East Asian politics at the University of California at Berkeley, in a phone interview. “The most important institution is the military. How will it handle Kim Jong Un?”
‘Team America: World Police’ surges as Twitter topic following Kim Jong Il’s death
New York Daily News
The death of Kim Jong Il has brought renewed interest in the North Korean dictator’s most high-profile performance on this side of the Pacific — as a singing puppet in “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s 2004 comedy “Team America: World Police.”
The marionette movie became a high-trending Twitter topic almost immediately after North Korean television announced Sunday night that the country’s “Supreme Leader” had died of a heart attack in Pyongyang at the age of 69.