A Talk With Professor Andrei Lankov

CHRISTINE LEE

As a study abroad student through the CIEE program, I was recently privy to attend a talk on North Korea by Professor Andrei Lankov, one of the world’s most renowned scholars on North Korea, a current professor at Kookmin University and even a past attendee of Kim Il sung University.

Professor Lankov’s goal was to introduce and talk about the North Korea regime in one hour or less, and in that time he addressed many off-hand questions I’ve wondered about in the past. Let me share with you what I learned!

1. Current Leadership and the Heir.

One question I’ve always had is why nothing happened to Kim Jong Eun, the third son of Kim Jong Il, when he was studying abroad in Switzerland. He attended classes, met professors and interacted with students to some degree, right? Here was a chance for the regime to end and for North Korea to drastically change! However, Kim Jong Eun wasn’t touted as Kim Jong Il’s son but rather posed as the son of an ambassador. He had personal bodyguards around him all the time, had limited interaction with others around him, and of course, being in Switzerland, was protected (since Switzerland is a neutral country).

And even though many would say that North Korea isn’t even close to collapsing, or changing, or to being an open country, the leadership of North Korea is so old that something potentially good and unexpected can happen soon. The advisors to Kim Jong Il aren’t getting any younger. The average age of the leaders is about 78 years old. This may be a very important factor in how strong the regime continues to be in the next five or ten years. Continue reading

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