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."