April 21, 2024

The pitfalls and potential of North Korea’s reform drive

Jang execution shows Pyongyang elite’s dissatisfaction with glut of Chinese investment

The sudden downfall of Jang Song Taek, until only recently the second most powerful man in Pyongyang, has again attracted much attention to North Korea. However, as usual, the noisy and dramatic political events distracted many observers from subtler, but potentially far more important changes unrolling within North Korea in recent weeks and months.

News from North Korea makes one suspect (with many caveats and reservations) that the North Korean leadership has finally set out on the path of reform. This is a highly treacherous path, potentially; Korea is, after all, a divided country in which the two states have a large economic gap. Nonetheless, the North Korean government has decided to take the risks, and it does make a lot of sense if judged from Kim Jong Un’s point of view.

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