Among several people that know me, I’ve developed a reputation as a North Korea “watcher”, so it has become common for people to ask me what is happening in North Korea, or what will happen in North Korea, or when do I think the regime will collapse, etc. This is especially common when North Korea is in the news (which is fairly often). Kim Jong Un hasn’t been seen for a month… what does it mean?
The honest answer in almost every case is simple, I do not know. I think that this is probably true for the majority of people, despite the number of stories written and theories advanced each time something happens, more often than not it is guesswork. This is not to say that North Korea is completely inscrutable, or that there are no meaningful patterns. In this sense North Korea can be understood on a macro-level far easier than in a micro one. The worst question people ask me is when I think that the regime will collapse. I think that this is inevitable, however, I do not wish to join the long list of people who made the foolish mistake of offering a number of years, a date, or a specific event that will bring the regime down. If forced, I would offer with many qualifications the guess of within 50 years, but that is just a guess and a number that sounds, but with enough time that the person who asked would forget what I said within that time frame.