There have been quite a lot of things happening in North Korea lately. Things that have never happened before. Many experts on North Korean issues are saying that these events are signs of change within North Korea that may lead to reform. Others argue that these changes will not be enough to open up North Korea. Of course, I can’t offer any answers to these debates and it is not OneKorea’s purpose to do so. But instead, I’d like to take a look at some of these changes so that you might be able to form an opinion of your own.
A Relatable Leader
Since Kim Jong Un succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, to be the leader of the world’s most isolated nation in the world, he’s been doing things a bit differently from the way his father liked things done. For one, he introduced his wife to the world. With Kim Jong Il, the leader’s wives were never officially revealed to the world. We may have had some information about them but you would never see them strutting around the country on the arm of their husband. The previous Kim was well known for his secrecy when it came to his personal life. However, this has not been the same for Kim Jong Un so far. We have been seeing Kim Jong Un and his wife in the news quite often lately as they visit various sites together hand in hand such as amusement parks and preschools.
Experts are speculating that these are attempts at building an image as a friendly, modern leader, no different from the heads of other countries. Kim Jong Un’s marital status was confirmed almost as an afterthought by state TV in an understated report on Wednesday about the opening of the amusement park: “As a welcoming song resonated, dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un, supreme commander of our party and people, appeared at the inauguration ceremony together with his wife, comrade Ri Sol Ju.” Analysts say the disclosure of his marital status was aimed at sending the message that the 20-something Kim was mature and stable, someone people can relate to despite having only seven months of experience as leader following the death of his father in December. Marriage would ease worries among Kim’s people and the much older officials serving under him “about the youth question,” said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst with the International Crisis Group. It also helps ordinary North Koreans feel that their new ruler is an average guy, not an eccentric, said Ahn Chan-il, another political analyst.
Changes in Feminine Roles
Other than changes in the leader’s image as it comes to his marriage, there have also been some changes in regards to what is and is not acceptable for women to do. Specifically in bike-riding. Cycling for women was banned in 1996 because the activity wasn’t regarded as sufficiently feminine by the male-dominated North Korean regime. I actually never knew that such a law had existed, but now that I think of it I have never seen a picture from North Korea with a woman actually pedaling a bike. But it’s good to know that the women of North Korea may be able to look forward to some rights.
Like I mentioned before, I do not know what these changes mean for the future of North Korea. And even experts can only make speculations. Maybe these changes will bring about some good in this impoverished country. We can only hope.