Kim Jong-il is dead. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Possible scenarios (not necessarily all mutually exclusive) include the following:
• Kim Jong-un, Jong-il’s youngest son, steps quickly and easily into his father’s shoes. All goes swimmingly.
• Kim Jong-il adviser Jang Song-taek acts as regent to the younger Kim and rules effectively while Jong-un continues to hone his chops in Pyongyang.
• North Korea launches artillery attacks against the South.
• North Korea tests a nuclear device.
• Factional infighting will prevent any individual or group from exercising effective control.
• Kim Jong-il’s death was not natural as reported. Kim Jong-un and other members of the Kim family may be next on the hit-list.
• The additional uncertainty caused by Kim’s death drives segments of an already hungry, malnourished population over the edge. North Koreans head for the Chinese border in droves.
I could go on, but the point is that nobody really knows precisely what is happening in Pyongyang nor what will happen next. North Korea is more or less a black box and has been so for decades. We could all be in for a wild ride.