Any future political battle could turn even more violent. A breakdown of one-man rule in what Bennett called a “failing state” risks a political free-for-all. The North has never tried power-sharing, or any kind of collective leadership. Concluded Bennett: “The division of the North into factions would likely precipitate civil war, as at least some of the factions will seek primacy and eventual control of all of North Korea.” Moreover, the regime or even one faction could strike outward to rally internal support.
Metz posited “widespread, protracted internal conflict that could make even the Syrian civil war pale by comparison.” The resulting hardship could exceed that resulting from the 1990s famine, which killed a half million or more North Koreans. We should not expect a peaceful, German-style resolution.
Although most people presume reunification would follow a North Korean collapse, Bennett warned that “China could take political control of much of the North, likely in cooperation with one or more North Korean factions. A failure to achieve Korean unification in these circumstances could doom Korea to division for at least many more decades.”