Poverty, Isolation, Nukes— What Kim Leaves Behind

Kim Jong Un inherits 'worst legacy' of Cold War, says Guardian
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2011 3:05 AM CST
Updated Dec 19, 2011 7:30 AM CST
Poverty, Isolation, Nukes— What Kim Leaves Behind
In this Oct. 9, 2010 file photo, Kim Jong Un, the likely successor to Kim Jong Il, applauds while watching the Arirang mass games in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Xinhua, Yao Dawei)

(Newser) – Diplomatically isolated and economically broken, with massive political prisons and perhaps the worst human rights record in the world—oh, and nuclear weapons—that's the North Korean legacy that Kim Jong Il has left for son Kim Jong Un, reports the Guardian. Born on the revered Mt. Baekdu, accompanied by brilliant shooting stars—well, unless you believe unofficial stories that he was born in a small village in the USSR—Dear Leader Kim was educated and came of age during North Korea's golden years in the 1960s and '70s, when the North was flourishing economically and rapidly industrializing. Kim spent his early career in the party's propaganda department, and in 1974, he was officially named his father's successor, the first hereditary succession in any communist country.

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Despite North Korea's early economic successes, even in the 1970s it was moving toward isolationism and poverty, a descent that accelerated greatly in the 1990s with the fall of the Soviet Union, when transfers from its communist allies dried up. Already the worst legacy of the Cold War when Kim Jong Il took over from his father in 1994, North Korea plunged into abject desolation in the 1990s as it was wracked by a famine that killed around 1 million people between 1995 and 1999. He did manage to ensure the North developed nuclear weapons, despite a 1993 agreement brokered by Jimmy Carter promising North Korea would not do so. (Read more Kim Jong Il stories.)

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