Over the past week, many people have expressed concern over the passing of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il. In reality, it’s not his death that should raise concern; rather, it’s who is taking his place as the country’s ruler.
Kim Jong-il’s successor is his youngest son, Kim Jong-un—someone North Korea’s official KCNA news agency called the “Great Successor,” and “the outstanding leader of our party, army, and people.” Is that an accurate statement? I’m not too sure.
We don’t know much about Kim Jong-un, other than the fact that he’s in his late 20s, studied for a short time at a school in Switzerland, and was appointed to senior political and military posts only last year.
Now here’s where the real concern comes in: North Korea is a nuclear power. And anyone in their late 20s—no matter how well schooled—is fairly inexperienced when it comes to leading a country. Granted, I’m sure he accompanied his father on a number of different government meetings and perhaps even international meetings, but he’s still very young to be in control of a nuclear power. That’s where the real concern and worry should be.
Realize that I’m not knocking young people. I’ve asserted for years that young people have a great advantage over older people because the young have new knowledge—they understand technology in a way that their elders do not. That alone often gives them a great advantage. We’ve also had many successful start-ups by young people, including Facebook and Twitter. These young entrepreneurs saw a future that older people could not.
However, there’s one thing that older people have that young people simply can’t get—it’s called wisdom gleamed from years of experience. And when it comes to running a country that has nuclear weapons, it helps to have wisdom and experience.
At least with Kim Jong-il, the world knew who they were dealing with, although they may not have always liked it. Now we have a “wildcard” leader, and wildcards create a lot of uncertainty. As the next few months unfold, the full picture of North Korea’s new leader will become clearer. Let’s hope that he uses his youth wisely and sees a future his elder did not.