Anyone else feeling oddly interested in the stories coming out of North Korea regarding the succession of Kim Jong-un? I normally don't follow news from this part of the world very closely, but I was stuck on a slow El train and began to read about the succession and how it would work. I was blown away: it was like something out of Shakespeare.

Kim Jong-un's exact position in a system of primogeniture is unclear, but his father Kim Jong-il promoted him to Heir Apparent status just a few years ago over children by his two wives and older children of his mother, probably not one of Jung-il's wives, but a "consort." Just as in Shakespeare's history plays, you need a chart to figure out who's who, who's related to whom, and how. Kim Jung-un's full and half-siblings have to tread carefully to avoid death or exile. His father's aunts and uncles, who helped Kim Jong-il consolidate his power when the grandfather/founder of the dynasty, Kim Sung-il, died, will play a role in the succession. Various generals and other powers have to be placated or put out of the picture. The nearby first-cousin foreign rival has to be intimidated lest it interfere with or try to take advantage of the shift in power. Military might must be displayed to cow enemies near and far.

Change some of the names from Kims and Jangs to York and Lancaster or Tudor and Stuart, change the rivals from South Korea and Japan and the U. S. and China to France and Scotland and Spain, and you've got Shakespeare. With nukes. I will be paying more attention to this part of the world. . . .

The stories, in roughly chronological order.

And let's hope he's as good as his dad was at sports. Sports can distract a guy from nuking things.