Downtown Pyongyang, North Korea
Insightful article on the current situation in North Korea...
Of course it won't be easy. Even though the North Korean leadership is aiming at the low-hanging fruits of authoritarian state capitalism, there are myriad obstacles in the way. Kim Jong-il bequeathed his son a rotten hand of cards: a population disillusioned by any form of government intervention in the economy, a state and party apparatus riven with corruption, and a bloated military that represents a million-man barrier to meaningful change. And that is without getting started on the industrial, legal, financial and communications infrastructure in North Korea, all of which will be highly inadequate for years to come no matter what policy is unveiled on October 1.
However, Kim Jong-eun is not yet 30 years old. What is his alternative? He clearly recognizes that grassroots marketization, increasingly uncontrollable information flows and the steadily declining power of the North Korean state mean that it would be futile to carry on with his father's politics for another half century in the implausible hope that he might get to pass on power to his own favored son. Economic liberalization is a proactive way to break out of this doomed spiral, and even if the regime falls off the tightrope, collapse following an honest attempt at change will likely earn him and his handbag-toting young wife a softer landing than yet more full-blooded repression.
In other words, Kim Jong-eun already knows that even if you can't be a Deng Xiaoping, it's better to be a Mikhail Gorbachev than a Muammar Gaddafi.
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