Extra! Korea

March 4, 2010

Andrei Lankov: “Is the Dear Leader losing his grip?”

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:07 pm

Andrei Lankov, and expert on Korea, especially North Korea, has written an article called “Is the Dear Leader losing his grip?” It’s a must-read.

I’ll summarize, but again, you should read it in its entirety. North Korea is in a sorry state, which we already know. Then he describes three critical mistakes that the North Korean leadership has made recently:

1. The recent currency reform and the resulting runaway inflation

2. Playing both of their trump blackmail cards, nuclear test and missile launch, one quickly after the other, followed swiftly by rhetoric that was unusually aggressive, even for Pyongyang. This lead even the dove-dreamers in Washington to realize that North Korea has no intentions of dismantling their nuclear program, in turn leading to the the withholding of the aid that N. Korea was trying to get.

3. A public apology to the people of North Korea for not creating even the modest paradise that was promised (eating rice and meat soup, living in houses with tiled roofs, and wearing silk clothes). Such an admission by an infallible living god, Kim Jong-il, would have been unthinkable in the past. Conceding that he made mistakes is dangerous for a dictator like Kim who, if he’s not careful, could end up like Nicolae Ceauşescu or Benito Mussolini.

He ends with a possible explanation:

In other words, something has changed in Pyongyang recently – seemingly, after Kim’s illness in late 2008, when he reportedly suffered a stroke. The most likely explanation seems to be biological: the increasing inability of the ailing dictator to pass reasonable judgments and control people around him.

One can easily imagine how the Dear Leader (perhaps even driven by genuine sympathy to his long-suffering people) would look through a currency reform plan and say: “And what about poor wage-earners? Should we not reward the people who remained loyal to the socialist industry and did not go for black markets? Why not increase their salaries, so they will become affluent, more affluent than those anti-socialist profiteers of the black market?” Few, if any, officials would dare to explain the dire economic consequences of such generosity.

It is also possible that the deteriorating health condition of Kim has led to growing rivalry between factions so the North Korean leadership is now increasingly disunited, with rival groups pushing through their own agendas.

1 Comment »

  1. […] as if Kim Sung-hwan, the senior Blue House secretary for foreign affairs and security, had read Andrei Lankov’s recent article, and wanted to poo-poo it. “Kim appears to be in full control of national […]

    Pingback by Secretary for foreign affairs and security: Kim Jong-il is “in full control” « Extra! Korea — March 6, 2010 @ 11:58 am


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