Kim Jong Il Dead: What's Next in N.Korea

A new crisis emerges in the Far East as the head of a rogue nuclear state dies.
3:00 | 12/19/11

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Transcript for Kim Jong Il Dead: What's Next in N.Korea
Much of the world is on high alert tonight as the death of North Korea's leader Kim Jong ill raises new questions about nuclear security. The deceased leader gave rise to a cult of personality as well as chronic poverty and famine conditions within his own country. That killed millions. But might his death be an opportunity for a new kind of North Korea here's ABC's David Wright in South Korea. He was the pint -- dictator of a pariah country with his finger on -- nuclear trigger. Whenever Kim Jong -- rattle his -- and did with some regularity you fire off one of the remember George W Bush's famous phrase states like these. And their terrorist allies. Constitute an axis of evil he was talking about Iraq Iran and North Korea. And that was before Kim Jong-Il succeeded. Today on North Korean state TV the news anchors wept as they broke the news of his death. Supposedly -- -- it will do what she beneath the giant statue of the dear leader. This -- abject grief. Patriotic morning Kim Jong-Il was the absolute ruler of North Korea for nearly twenty years. But today even as the news broke of his sudden death North Korea carried out another missile test. They have between six and twelve. Nuclear. Devices. We don't think. That they are anything that can be put on the end of a missile but they certainly are a deterrent. Over the years Kim Jong-Il proved very -- using his nuclear ambitions as a bargaining chip. -- fox seeing several US presidents who tried to stand in his way. I don't think Americans should ever have thought of North Korea. As a military threat. They know that if they were to attack us they would be. -- -- They're not crazy. Kim Jong -- played the crazy card and played it with his own peculiar style. In his elevator shoes. His portly jumpsuits and his oversized shades he looked more like an Elvis impersonator -- an evil emperor. But -- people. Crack me in movies like team America world police he was an easy figure to parity. -- -- Malone me the outlandish stories that built up his cult of personality did little to cultivate respect. The story goes that in 1994. The year he took power from his father the great leader Kim Jong-Il played his one and only round of golf. Shooting 38 under par including eleven holes in want. Did anyone in North Korea didn't believe it they didn't dare say -- As ABC's Diane Sawyer discovered in -- 2006 trip to North Korea the population was kept almost hermetically sealed from the rest of the world. -- -- -- -- -- And this. -- -- -- -- -- Dangerous if north Koreans know little of the outside world outside world knows even less about the young man who was anointed his father's successor. Kim Jong -- Is thought to be in his late twenty's his father's third son while Kim Jong-Il had been a well established member of his father's military regime in jungle -- -- a virtual unknown. So here you have the young man of 4627. Coming into power -- this very important dynastic role to play and I think he's not going to want to. Have anybody rock the boat and I don't think he is going to rock the -- But what if some other faction in North Korea decides to Rock the Vote. Not yet clear how much Kim -- and commands respect among the military hard line. This is only the second time in history the hermit kingdom of North Korea has had a transition of power and now there are nuclear weapons and. Here in South Korea that is a source of fear and uncertainty. They don't yet know whether they can afford to be optimistic whether this may finally be a turning point for the better. Or whether someone either the new leader or -- potential rival might lash out in order to prove a point. The devil they know -- been replaced by one they don't. And that's not much reassurance. Cynthia. And our thanks to David Wright. ABC's global affairs anchor Christiane Amanpour joins us now from London Christiane good evening. Good evening Cynthia you -- your career in 2008. What is the death of Kim -- -- likely to mean for the people there. Well you know this is unbelievable cult of -- out here is we all know that this is a country that bed he speaks out a subsistence living. This is a place where the prison camps of bursting at the -- where is the last of the truly totalitarian. Regimes. So for the people not much is going to change because we don't seem to think that this new -- untested on season so young. We'll be able to immediately put any stamp on what happens that on the other hand some -- the very fact. But unlike his father unlike his grandfather he actually lived abroad for a while has seen a different kind of life than just North Korea may be just may be. Down the line they might be some of home. -- -- -- off a lot of people in the US it's all about the nuclear. Weapons question and the US is currently in talks as you know the world powers including China and Russia to try to address the threat but what's the next move. Now for the US -- in regard to nuclear weapons. Well very difficult because the US was -- and long time now several months in direct negotiations with North Korea. About North Korea suspending its nuclear program. And of course with the death of Kim Jong-Il that is going to probably put that on hold for the foreseeable future but I was there as you say in 2008. And at that time North Korea had suspended. Its nuclear activities I watched them dismantle -- to -- young beyond facility. And stopped processing plutonium. I also watch them blow up the cooling tower and that was done in a very careful arrangement with the United States sort of -- attack. Diplomatic engagement so it is possible it is possible to do is just -- is getting both sides back to the table. So Christiane when the attempted passing it looks like the past the power here from fathers and -- In North Korea anything to be learned from the Arab Spring when we. Saw the failure of many such transitions. We've seen people -- sweep the Arab world it's probably not gonna happen in North Korea anytime soon because I cannot tell you. How isolated that places there's barely any electricity if you see a satellite picture of the Korean Peninsula up. South Korea is exploding in light North Korea is -- They've -- able to survive most of the north Koreans so it's unlikely that that kind of people power. Will be manifested any time soon that. Christiane Amanpour an important day in the life of the world and we're very grateful that you could join us tonight from one.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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