What would happen if Kim Jong Un dies? This situation very nearly became reality after the leader of North Korea was not seen for multiple days following his cardiovascular procedure on April 12, 2020. The answer cannot and will not be known, since “Kim Jong Un is alive and well” according to Moon Chung-in, who is the top foreign policy advisor in South Korea. However, we certainly can speculate.

The main question is one regarding Kim Jong Un’s hypothetical successor, as he has no clear heir. A natural heir would be children, as a male member of the Kim family has always taken over ever since North Korea’s founding in 1948. Although Kim he supposedly has three children, the eldest is only 10 and therefore too young to take power. Other members of the Kim family also seem unlikely to succeed as Kim Yo-jong is a woman in an extremely patriarchal environment who would deem her unfit to run the military and therefore the country. Both of Kim Jong Un’s brothers also lack the network to seize the title of Supreme Leader. This leads the hypothetical position of Supreme leader up to outsiders, and if history tells us anything, a power vacuum between North Korea’s greatest political and military figures.

The short answer is: We don’t know. However, if Kim Jong Un does die, there will be significant impacts on its allies including China and Russia, as well as North Korea itself if a power vacuum does ensue.