Is Reform Underway in North Korea?
The jury is still out on the young leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un on whether any sort of reforms would be taken under his leadership but there is hope.
Kim Jong-un is the world's youngest head of state. His date of birth is January 8th of 1983 or 1984.
Here are some reasons why I think there could be a possibility of some type of reform. Kim Jong-un has studied abroad in Switzerland and with this outside influence he saw the wealth of a free society.
Him Jong-un knows his convoluted government is a farce and a broken model. Of course, if all he wants is power and to stay in control then reforms may be dangerous to his rule but I think not.
Because of his age (late twenties or early thirties) not doing any reforms may be just as dangerous to his rule. He could expect to lead for another thirty to fifty years and he must know that the way his country functions as it does now, is not sustainable. To be able to serve as North Korea's leader for such an extended period he may see reform as a tool that needs to be used for his own survivability.
The problem is change won't come easy even if Kim Jong-un wanted to enact reforms. His party, the government, and military are entrenched with aged men who are hardliners that enjoy a somewhat different lifestyle then the general population, many who have need for food and live in constant hunger.
North Korea is a bizarre world which I will expand on in another hub. Basically the country is like a movie set. Nothing is as it seems. There are five lane highways with policewomen at intersections directing non-existing traffic . A network of modern day concentration camps dot the countryside. What history they are taught in school no way resembles actual events as does the news they hear on state tv and radio.
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Kim fired his top military general who was appointed by Kim's father ,Kim Jong-Il in July. It's uncertain if this was a move to show reform or merely to consolidate his power. This shows at the very least, that Kim has the power to make changes.
Kim Jong-un was not originally anointed to move into the top leadership, instead his older brother, Kim Jong Nam was slated to be North Korea's leader following the death of their father. At least that was the plan. His older brother became estranged from his family after he tried using a fake passport to enter Japan. Seems he wanted to visit “Tokyo Disneyland.” This was a major embarrassment for the Kim family. His older bother now lives in exile in Macau and elsewhere. He also lives in danger of being assassinated or taken captive and taken back to North Korea by agents of his home country.
Kim Jong Nam is now an outspoken critic of North Korea and works with groups that aid defectors from North Korea. Could there be a possibility that his brother Kim Jong-un has at least a little similar outlook for more freedom? A telling sign may be the the “Disney concert” held in the capital, Pyongyang.
The concert featured music with clips of Disney movies playing in the background and Characters dressed up in Disney customs. The display of western culture and pictures is a far cry from the usual display of the arts in North Korea. Some may say this is just a ploy by Kim to project a more youthful, modern image of himself then any steps towards real reform. There probably is some truth to that augment but at least the change was there.
Another potentially positive factor could be Kim's new wife, Ri Sol Ju. She was a singer that studied abroad in China and made several performances overseas such as Japan. She was also involved in a North-South Korea exchange program. Ri Sol Ju also appears in public wearing stylish, western styled clothing.
If Kim Jong-un believes reform is enviable then that change may not come soon but drawn out over several years so as not to anger the aged men in leadership positions now. There is no guarantee that Kim will make changes but there is a greater chance of reform then just a few years ago. What has been evolving in Myanmar at least gives us hope that change may eventually come to North
The books I list from Amazon are all I have read and I found each to be fascinating. The most recent book I just bought is which I'm looking forward to reading. Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad