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April 10, 2013

N. Korea keeps locals guessing

Area residents with knowledge of the situation said they were unsure how military threats by North Korea would progress.

Robert Compton, SUNY Oneonta Associate Professor of Africana and Latino Studies and Political Science, said the heightened tension is the result of the country’s transition to its current leader, Kim Jong Un. Kim took over the post on the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, who succeeded his own father. 

The dynastic succession model is firmly in place, but every time it happens, “the leadership has to consolidate its power,” Compton said. “We’d like to think it is a monolith, but that is not the case.” 

Compton speculated that the power struggle may be an example of the military trying to assert its control over policymaking.

While some popular media in this country have uggested Kim is crazy, that is not the case, Compton said.  But the professor acknowledged that Kim’s reasoning may be erratic, or based on information that’s inaccurate or limited.

Like the North Korean leader, our ability to understand the current situations is based on limited information, Compton said. 

“We don’t know what the military is doing,” he pointed out. However, it remains “a very tense situation, especially with the American presence. Something can go wrong, but I don’t expect a large scale conflict,” he said.

North Korea’s isolation since the collapse of the Soviet Union have made it difficult for Western analysts to penetrate. But one area resident has seen the country firsthand. 

SUNY Oneonta senior Shawn Dacey visited North Korea last spring, along with stops in China and South Korea. The geography and social studies education major said he has a love of travel.

Dacey agreed with Compton that it has hard to say what is happening, and that there is not a lot of information about Kim. 

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