Is Kim Jong Un the next Den Xiaoping? An unnamed source informs Reuters that the young Supreme Leader of North Korea has carried out a purge against army officers loyal to his father’s economic planning, exclusively controlled by the military. Now Kim the younger has set up a new independent political bureau to take over:
North Korea’s cabinet has created a “political bureau” designed to wrest power from the 1.2 million-strong military in order to run the economy, which has been in shambles after a crippling famine in the 1990s, the source said.“In the past, the cabinet was empty with no say in the economy. The military controlled the economy, but that will now change,” the source said.Kim Jong-un has set up an “economic reform group” in the ruling Workers’ Party to look at agricultural and economic reforms, the source said, adding that North Korea will learn from its giant neighbor and solitary benefactor, China.
This isn’t just crazy talk. A lot of Asian communist parties at this point can point to economic reforms that enriched Party cadres and left the Reds firmly in political control; that has to look good to many of the people around the new Kim.China would very much like for such economic reform to succeed—Beiijing has been pressing for some for years and is likely to reward any steps by North Korea in this direction.But nothing in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea is ever as simple as it seems, and the Kim family has a long history of choosing control over growth. Like the Castro brothers, who have been talking about economic reforms since 1990 while doing as little as possible to change the system that keeps them on top, the DPRK leadership might just be making noise.It’s worth noting that the reform talk comes with a kicker; in other news the North Koreans say that continuing US hostility is “forcing” them to recommit to their nuclear program.The new Kim seems as determined to rule his country as autocratically as his father and grandfather before him; its long suffering residents can only hope that he decides that economic reforms and growth will solidify his position better than starvation and repression.