4 Reasons Why Assassinating Kim Jong-Un Could Become a Total Disaster

Zachary Keck

Security, Asia

South Korea might want to think that through a little more.

4 Reasons Why Assassinating Kim Jong-Un Could Become a Total Disaster

North Korea’s most recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test has once again captivated the international community. Much less attention has been paid to how South Korea is responding to its neighbor’s military advances. Firstly, South Korea is acquiring the capabilities to conduct preemptive strikes against North Korea’s nuclear and missile sites under the guise of its “Kill Chain” strategy. Relatedly, Seoul is seeking the capabilities and simulating decapitation strikes against North Korea’s leadership—that is, South Korea wants the ability to assassinate Kim Jong-un and his inner circle.

Both capabilities pose enormous challenges that are not being acknowledged. For both scenarios, Seoul is failing to ask the simple question of whether the United States would back its actions. Washington itself does not appear to be contemplating this essential question, even though it would be directly implicated by South Korea’s policies.

With regard to the decapitation strikes, the most important question not being asked is—what comes next? Although South Korea depicts its threats of decapitation strikes as a way to deter Kim Jong-un from launching an attack, the North Korean threat would not simply go away if Seoul had to execute this strategy. There are myriad different potential outcomes likely to result from a successful decapitation strike. It is worth considering the consequences of some of these.

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1. General War

As one of the most closed societies in the world, there is much that we do not know about North Korea. This absolutely includes its military command structure, as well as the loyalties of its senior leadership. Thus, while it is impossible to know for sure, it seems likely that the military would still feel compelled to fight for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea even if Kim Jong-un were killed.

After all, the military elite benefits from the current political system and, given the heavy indoctrination since birth, may very well be loyal to the Kim family even if Kim Jong-un is dead. Moreover, if the country were under attack and…

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