Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Kim Jong Un

Highs: Feted with one more showcase of North Korea's distinct brand of pseudo-fascist totalitarian spectacle, Kim Jong Un was made Pyongyang's heir apparent on Oct. 10. As the youngest son of the rogue state's ailing leader, Kim Jong Il, he stands poised not only to fill his father's shoes soon, but for many years to come.

Lows: Kim's North Korea is impoverished, ravaged by famine, and dominated by its unpredictable and utterly opaque military (most recently, the North conducted a reportedly unprovoked bombardment of a South Korean island on Nov. 23, killing 4 people). As Beijing, Pyongyang's only significant ally, gets increasingly called upon to bring the North to heel, analysts suggest Kim may eventually find himself squeezed by both international pressure and domestic instability.

Ishaan Tharoor