North Korea In Transition

Kim Jong Il's Legacy? 'North Korea Is Dark'

There's certainly already been a lot said about North Korea's Kim Jong Il. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has an obit and Planet Money has a recap of how North Korea's economy is fueled by drug dealing and smuggling of counterfeit goods.

This morning, Andrew Sullivan had an extensive round-up of reaction to his death: everything from The National Journal's Michael Hisrsh calling his and his father's rule "the most successful totalitarianism in modern history" to professor Erica Chenoweth predicting a "popular uprising" in the country.

But perhaps the most succinct analysis of what Kim Jong Il's rule has meant for North Korea comes from the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, who points to two graphics. First, a graph on North and South Korea's GDPs (the south has left the north in the dust) and then takes a page from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who during a 2002 briefing presented a satellite image showing a nighttime Earth:

North Korea's borders are outlined. i

North Korea's borders are outlined. NASA via Afrikent hide caption

toggle caption NASA via Afrikent
North Korea's borders are outlined.

North Korea's borders are outlined.

NASA via Afrikent

"If you look at a picture from the sky of the Korean Peninsula at night," said Rumsfeld. "South Korea is filled with lights and energy and vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark."

Klein adds:

"That, right there, is Kim Jong Il's legacy. In a world that had long ago found light, he managed to keep 24 mIlion human beings in the dark."

If you're interested in a more detailed map, NASA keeps high-resolution images of the "Earth's city lights."



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from