North Korea Potential Crisis Scenarios

Map of North KoreaThe International Affairs Group of CNA Strategic Studies released in November 2011 North Korea after Kim Chong-il Leadership Dynamics and Potential Crisis Scenarios, by expert on North Korea affairs, Ken Gause.

The report asks the questions that North Korea and the world have been pondering since August 2008 when then leader of North Korea Kim Chong-il reportedly suffered a stroke: “What would have happened if Kim had died in a period in which the regime had not worked out the succession? What kind of leadership configuration would emerge? Could the regime sustain itself or would it collapse into chaos?” The regime in North Korea had taken steps to prepare for Kim Chong-il’s death; many of the questions still remain.

This report poses four potential scenarios for the now post-Kim Chong-il North Korea:

• Continuation of the Kim regime, albeit in a weaker state
• Collapse of the Kim regime and replacement by another, weak regime
• Collapse of the Kim regime followed by chaos
• Collapse of the Kim regime followed by conflict”

“Each scenario carries with it implications for North Korean policymaking and the potential for the regime’s near-, medium-, and long-term survival. Each also highlights the complexities and dilemmas the United States and its allies in the region would face from a policymaking perspective and in terms of crisis management. This paper argues that the leadership configuration in place at the time and the circumstances surrounding Kim’s death will have a major impact on how regime dynamics evolve in the following weeks, months, and possibly years.”

Article formerly posted at