Of course events in historical time proceeded at a slower pace because life itself was tied, more or less, to the orderly transition of the seasons, for example, even into relatively recent times–think of Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons, I believe, the musical work is titled. We see much of this in Medieval and Ancient art.

Thus, we can imagine the transition of dynasties in ancient Egypt, grounded in the elaborate rituals of death and the afterlife and the tides of the Nile without much interference from outside, temporal events. But after the revolutions of 1848, in Europe, it would be difficult to imagine an Egyptian-style dynastic succession anywhere, at all. As per your example, the last Romanov, as well as the last emperor in China, was swept away by the swirl of events in the fast-paced 20th Century.

I am saying that North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom, cannot remain a dynastic society for much longer, an entire nation living in a museum. While the Chinese want stability in the Korean Peninsula, they also represent themselves to North Korea as a model of surviving and flourishing in the contemporary world, of bending without breaking, in Confucian thought; and they punish North Korea for not listening to them by temporarily turning off their oil pipeline into North Korea, for example. A lesson impossible to ignore.

In short, no one will offer carrots and sticks to the heir apparent or the military in North Korea to stand rigidly still for the next half century. The Un-Kim must do something different from his father and grandfather to make a name for himself in history, for good or ill.

Comment posted by Hudson Owen to “Even in a Best-Case Scenario, North Korea Remains a Big Problem,” by Megan McArdle, The Atlantic,Dec. 20, 2011