Future of North Korea Economy: Politics over Economic Policy

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Future of North Korea Economy: Politics Over Economic Policy

The terms starvation, isolation, totalitarianism, and nuclear ambitions combined would remind most people the hermit kingdom in East Asia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and its Kim dynasty. After the demise of the aged dictator Kim Jong Il in December 2011, the country went through a period of mourning the death of their “beloved” Great General and, undergoing a power succession to his 29-year-old son, Kim Jong Un. He has been known to have attended a Swiss school in his childhood years, enjoying playing basketball and video games (Yan & Shubert, 2011). However, even though many outsiders have a hopeful outlook on this young dictator to be somewhat liberal
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Byman and Lind (2010) claim that these provocations help Kim to stoke popular nationalism, while strengthening his position within the military. It has been only a few years since Kim entered politics, but these series of eliminating potentially threatening figures, including even those who have helped in smoothing the transition, and continuous provocation to the international society suggest that consolidating power through provocation and purging is the main focus of Kim on the individual level.
Even if Kim Jong Un succeeds in gaining stable power, it is unlikely that he would be enthusiastic in bringing forth major economic reforms as expected by some analysts because such extensive reforms could undermine his authority as they would risk loyalty of the military and the party. As Ben Ascione (2012) argues, unless the military becomes a major stake holder in economic reforms through generating profit instead of depleting huge amounts of North Korea’s budget, economic reforms will have to be pursued at the cost of the military first policy, which is a guideline his father, prioritizing the military in allocating resources to foster loyalty from the army by strengthening its position. Therefore, Kim would have to face dissatisfied military elites if he were to start expensive economic reforms. He may have vowed to develop the economy, and rumors have spread that he will push through reforms allowing farmers to keep 30% of their yield, eventually replacing the state
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