Watching from afar, the dramatic political theater playing out in Pyongyang around Kim Jong Il's funeral reminded my own experiences inside the hermit kingdom.
It took me nine years to secure a visa into North Korea. We were finally let in with the extraordinary cultural ambassadors: the musicians of the new York Philharmonic Orchestra in the chilly winter of 2008.
On the ground there I was startled by the genuine appreciation North Koreans showed for the first ever American Orchestra to play for them, but I was also made very aware of Kim Jong Il's "military first" policy. It is this military elite that the "great successor," Kim Jong Un will have to win over to ensure that his family's hereditary cult continues.
No-one on the outside can really claim to know where he will take North Korea, but there is certainly some hope that Kim Jong Un's unique upbringing could bring some reform to the hardline communist state.
In order to try and read the tea leaves on what the Kim Jong Un regime will mean for the region and the United States, I sat down with a foremost voice in the North Korean Geopolitik.
Former Ambassador Christopher Hill headed the US delegation during the Bush administration throughout the very tense in the six party talks working to find both a tenable peace and a denucluarized North Korea.
We spoke about what the future of North Korea will look like.