Death of a leader
There are colleagues who, when they heard that I would be spending time in Japan, mentioned the risk of radiation following the disaster at Fukushima earlier this year. There are colleagues who are wary of the ever-present threat of earthquakes. Indeed, if a ‘big one’ does strike metropolitan Tokyo/Yokohama, the consequences would be very serious. I was even told that the last Mt. Fuji eruption, in 1707, had been preceded by a major earthquake – maybe I should keep an eye open for any evidence that the same may happen again. One way or another, coming to Japan for six months was, at best, ill-considered.
But no-one said “Alan, one of the world’s most unpredictable regimes exists a short distance away, on the other side of the Sea of Japan. The leader has been in ill health for a long time and may pass away at any time. Do you realise the uncertainty that such an event may lead to? Do you realise that there may be a struggle for power in a rogue state that carries on with its nuclear program in the face of international condemnation?”
And so it has come to pass. Kim Jong-il of North Korea has died aged 69. He was the leader of a state that spends around one third of its GDP on the military while its citizens live desperate lives. It’s hard to think that in the early days of the split on the Korean peninsula, the north was more prosperous than the south. I read Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy” (http://nothingtoenvy.com/) last year, and that’s definitely worth a read. Perhaps it has become very topical given yesterday’s news.
The question is, is there anything else I should have thought about before I arrived?