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    » 07/23/2012, 00.00

    KOREA

    Kim Jong-un changing "everything in order that nothing changes"

    Joseph Yun Li-sun

    A South Korean source tells AsiaNews what is happening in the last Stalinist nation in the world. "Purges, new appointments and economic changes are means by which the dictator wants to reshape the nation's power structure. However, the truth is that he fears a popular uprising that might bring down the ruling oligarchy. If he wants to survive, he should talk to Seoul."

    Seoul (AsiaNews) - Recent purges, targeted killings and appointments in Pyongyang are part of a broader plan of economic and social renewal of North Korea, a final attempt by its dictator, Kim Jong-un, to stay in power and keep afloat the country's oligarchic and militarised regime.

    "The dictator wants to change everything in order that nothing changes," a source in South Korea's Interior Ministry told AsiaNews. "He knows he is very close to a popular uprising."

    According to the source, North Korea is planning economic reform, particularly in agriculture, which has suffered the most for years, after Kim Jong-un and his powerful uncle Jang Sung-taek successfully replaced the old army chief of staff, who opposed change, with a crony.

    In order to continue the leadership overhaul, the government has set up a special bureau to run the economy in lieu of the armed forces (among the largest in the world), which had been given that task by the late Kim Jong-il. The latter's third son knows "that he cannot control the military the way his father did. However, he also knows that he must revive the economy because the population is at end of its tether."

    Most of North Korea's 23,000,000 people make a living from farming. However, this is not enough since their equipment is antiquated and grain production tends to be substandard because of environmental conditions. Central planning has also destroyed personal initiative.

    After he came to power, one of the first things Kim Il-sung did was to seize farmland from rich landlords. In the 1950s, about 4,000 large collective farms employing some 300 families were created, incorporating all small farms. However, such changes did not meet expectations because of poor environmental conditions and migration of peasants to industrial centres.  

    In every economic field, but especially light industry, the lack of foreign capital has prevented the introduction of modern technologies. The country is unable to buy the equipment it needs to rival increasingly rich South Korea. The lack of technology and the country's inefficient centrally planned model have held back its development.

    Various analysts believe that North Korea's future lies in the "Chinese model" of small scale, step-by-step liberalisation, eventually followed by the introduction of capitalism.

    "This will not happen for a simple reason," the source told AsiaNews. "As soon as ordinary North Koreans see that a better life is possible without the regime, it will overthrow it. If Kim Jong-un wants change, he has to demobilise the military and start talks with the south. Only this way, he can save himself and the country."

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    See also

    30/07/2012 NORTH KOREA
    As Kim Jong-un plays in the park, uncle takes the country
    Hamlet takes centre stage in Pyongyang. With North Korea's young dictator, Kim Jong-un, playing happy husband with wife at the amusement part for the greater joy of photographers, Uncle Jang Song-taek purges the top echelons of the regime to assert his power. However, he is taking big risks because North Koreans will not let a non-Kim rule them.

    20/07/2012 NORTH KOREA
    Purges, killings and new economy: Kim Jong-un's grab for real power
    After taking over in December, the young dictator has had to put up with the generals. Now, with the sacking of the chief of General Staff, which led to a gun fight that might have killed and wounded 40 people, and the creation of a political bureau to run the economy, changes are coming to the top. A "final struggle" for power is underway, source tells AsiaNews.

    11/04/2013 KOREA
    Infighting in the ruling family, army and party behind Kim's threats
    "Whilst everyone was looking at the movements of the military, various players have changed inside the regime. The dictator's uncle no longer appears to be in the picture; he was the regime's eminence grise and main contact with the military." Official tells Chinese, "There'll be no war on the Korean Peninsula, so send as many tourists as possible".

    21/12/2011 NORTH KOREA
    North Korean soldiers stealing food from people, as everyone fears the worst
    A source on the border with China tells AsiaNews, “Soldiers are hoarding all they can find in their barracks. People are starving to death because here you can live only with a rifle and some food.” Meanwhile, the power struggle for the dead leader’s throne picks up.

    05/04/2012 CHINA
    Bo Xilai Maoist revival "worse than Cultural Revolution"
    The downfall of the communist secretary of Chongqing has carried with it a corrupt system of power linked to the triads, which did not hesitate to use Maoist methods of "terror" to consolidate their power. China is at a turning point: it knows that the path followed to date has reached a dead end but can not find consensus for the future.



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