CNN is reporting that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il has died, allegedly of “overwork.”
He will not be missed. His regime starved his people in order to maintain a massive army and pursue nuclear weapons. He gave himself over to self-glorification, continuing to cultivate a bizarre personality cult and even, as I wrote elsewhere, building himself a modern-day Tower of Babel to try to increase the prestige of his rule.
His passing leaves a very uncertain situation in the Korean peninsula. He was grooming his twenty-something-old son Kim Jong-Un as his successor, but there are doubts that the military establishment would be willing to follow him due to his lack of experience. Although the North Korean news agency KCNA has been urging North Koreans to rally around Kim Jong-Un, don’t be surprised if he meets an unfortunate accident in the weeks ahead.
A greater cause for worry is the fact that the North Koreans have a habit of distracting its people from its extensive internal problems by provoking confrontations outside its borders. As poor as it is, North Korea is able to cause an unimaginable amount of trouble and suffering in a very short period of time. South Korea’s largest city and capital, Seoul, with more than 10 million people, sits only 35 miles from the border–and North Korea possesses the world’s largest artillery force, numbering about 13,000 guns and rocket launchers. Many of these are pointed at Seoul, and while statements that Seoul could be “levelled” in two hours are most likely overstated, there is no doubt that there would be tens of thousands of casualties in a very short time along with a massive shock to the world’s economy should North Korea pull the lanyard. And then there’s the matter of the North’s nuclear weapons.
So prayer for stability and peace is definitely called for.
At the same time, this may turn into an opportunity. Kim Jong-Il’s regime was a devoted enemy of the Gospel of Christ, having killed hundreds of thousands of Christians and even now keeping about a hundred thousand in labor camps. Perhaps, in God’s mercy, Kim’s death will be a step toward a greater openness to the West and the dismantlement of the Kim Il Sung/Jong Il personality cult, and result in greater freedom for the Gospel to be proclaimed in that desperately dark and needy country.
At the end of the day, as our friend Vince Kuipers pointed out on Twitter, Daniel’s words remain true: “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). The Lord of Hosts remains on the throne above. He is still sovereign, and he ordained that this come to pass.
Let us continue to look to Christ, then, as our Rock as the world comes to grips with a new reality in the Far East.