How likely is the North Korean government to fall

January 1, 0001

Many are waiting for the “fall” of the DPRK government and reunification of the two Koreas to open the area to the Gospel. How likely is this event to happen in the short-term future? “Sudden change is always possible and it is impossible to predict exactly when the North Korean state could collapse. Within the next five-to-ten years, a cascading series of events could conceivably end with regime collapse in the north, leading to the unification of the two Koreas,” writes Sue Mi Terry in CFR. Unfortunately, Terry and others who obviously passionately desire to see the government of the DPRK fall usually only envision a wildcard event. As she notes, wildcards are impossible to predict, so such forecasts are couched in “could conceivably.” How realistic is such a wildcard, given the efforts of the government to prevent it—and are there other alternatives which might open North Korea to the Gospel? With the assistance of Concilium’s International Affairs Group, I have compiled an estimate of the future of the North Korean government and the likely scenarios. The brief conclusion: for at least the immediate short-term future (2016, and through 2020), the current status quo is the most likely scenario. Strategies which depend on regime change for the broad multiplication of the Gospel may need to be rethought. A very long view with regard to North Korea seems in order. Key judgments/Scenarios, with probabilities:

  • Kim Jong-un opens the country to better his people: Very Unlikely
  • Seeking to replace Kim Jong-un, one of the Powerful initiate a coup: Very Unlikely
  • Seeking openness and/or afraid of external actors, the growing Consumer Class and the Military together initiate a coup: Very Unlikely
  • Seeking power from the government, the Military initiates a coup: Very Unlikely
  • Tired of poverty, hunger and oppression, the populace revolts: Remote
  • Afraid of nukes or military action, China/Russia/USA invade, overturn: Very Unlikely (except in the case of severe, imminent, massive military provocation)
  • DPRK decides to pursue reunification by invading the South: Unlikely