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The Kims' Three Bodies: Dynastic Succession and its Antecedents in the DPRK

Bruce Cumings - Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Chicago

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North Korea has smuggled monarchy through the front door of its communist system. Korea's millennia-long history of kings and queens means that the people of the DPRK have only known monarchy or dictatorship (Japanese, 1910-45; the Kim family's, 1945--present); ordinary people frequently refer to their leader as "wang," or king. Unlike with Kim Jong Il (who resembled his mother, not his father), the regime has gone out of its way to identify Kim Jong Un with his grandfather--and the grandson, in turn, has adopted the characteristic public style of Kim Il Sung. Many American commentators mistakenly assume that when the leader dies, North Korea will be like the Soviet Union after Stalin, or China after Mao. In fact it has gone through two stable leadership transitions, in 1994 and 2011, and given Kim Jong Un's youth, there may not be another one for many years.

Thursday, February 14, 2013 | 4:15 pm — 6:00 pm RSVP
Building 200 - Room 307, Main Quad

Center for East Asian Studies
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Department of History