May 27, 2024

A New Korea Under Kim Jong-Un?

The boom and bust nature of North Korea’s limelight is part of the reason why analysts on North Korea can rarely afford to be full-time experts. Whenever the DPRK rattles its sabre, causing the rest of the world to gasp in amnesic horror, Pyongyang watchers eagerly chime in with their two cents and offer firm but placating opinions. Everyone is reminded that we’ve been down this road in the past and that North Korea is more complex than it is being given credit for. Shortly thereafter, the world goes back to its usual business and our friendly analysts retreat to their formal positions as teachers, journalists or bicycle mechanics.

So it’s no surprise that the death of Kim Jong-il has managed to draw confident conclusions that the song will remain the same. The military’s lack of motivation for change intertwined with its symbiotic bond to the leadership renders the possibility of top-down reforms tenuous. Meanwhile, a combination of the people’s general knack for survival and their own inability to communicate effectively with one another means that there is no place for Time Magazine’s person of the year in Pyongyang. Furthermore, the leadership fears a dissemination of information that will scrutinize sixty five years of lies and could jeopardize their position/ longevity. Yet despite the seemingly irresistible tendency to maintain the status quo, a new regime offers several opportunities for change that governments and analysts should take into consideration.

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