Change in North Korea?

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.

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In the News – S. Korea says it’s too early to judge N. Korean leader’s intention

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In the News – S. Korea says it’s too early to judge N. Korean leader’s intention

(ATTN: UPDATES with PM’s comments on military pact with Japan at last 5 paras)
SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s prime minister said Thursday it is too early to judge whether North Korea will move toward reform and openness, despite Pyongyang’s recent embrace of American cultural icons.

North Korea’s state media showed Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh taking the stage during a concert for new leader Kim Jong-un earlier this month, a rare move by the isolated nation that has tried to keep a tight lid on American culture.

Performers danced while clips of Disney movies such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Snow White” and “Dumbo” played on a paneled backdrop for the show in Pyongyang.

Kim has also made a spate of inspection tours that are closely related to his people’s livelihoods in recent months, including an amusement park, a zoo and shops.

Yoo Ki-june, a lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, said Kim’s moves could be a message to the United States and China that he is interested in embracing reform and openness.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said the North’s new leader has displayed moves unseen in the North in the past.

“Still, it’s too early to judge whether there will be a substantial change and whether (North Korea) will move toward reform and openness,” Kim said in a parliamentary session.

Kim said South Korea is making efforts to ensure the North abandons its nuclear weapons program and moves toward reform and openness. Kim also said China and the international community could play a role in nudging North Korea toward such openness.

Last year, Kim Jong-il, the late father of the current leader, toured major economic facilities in China, triggering speculation that the senior Kim was interested in following in Chinese footsteps.

China has been trying to coax its impoverished ally to embrace reforms similar to those that lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing become the world’s second-largest economy.

North Korea ruled out any policy changes following the December death of long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

Separately, Prime Minister Kim also said that a controversial military pact with Japan should not be repealed despite public criticism for cooperating with the former colonial ruler.

The South Korean Cabinet approved the pact behind closed doors, drawing public anger and harsh bipartisan opposition from the National Assembly. The resistance eventually forced the government to delay the signing of the deal with Tokyo at the last minute.

“If we inform people of the precise content of the military pact, they will think it is helpful and necessary for the national interest,” Kim said, while saying “No” to a demand by an opposition lawmaker that the government scrap the accord.

Earlier Kim and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan offered an apology for not informing the National Assembly of the agreement, but the main opposition Democratic United Party called for the dismissal of the prime minister over the government’s mishandling of the agreement.

“I’m not clinging to my post but I think it’s not appropriate for a prime minister or foreign minister to step down at this moment,” Prime Minister Kim said.

Original Article

In the News – North Korea names Kim Jong Eun ‘marshal’ of the military

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In the News – North Korea names Kim Jong Eun ‘marshal’ of the military

 

BEIJING — North Korea on Wednesday named its young leader, Kim Jong Eun, “marshal” of the military, a preeminent job title that analysts say is designed to reinforce his absolute power and warn off members of senior elites who might question it.

The title appears redundant, because Kim already served as the military’s supreme commander. But the timing of the announcement is significant, outside experts say, coming just two days after the North dismissed a top army leader — perceived hard-liner Ri Yong Ho — and perhaps doubling as a message about Kim’s willingness to shape the 1.2 million-strong military as he sees fit.

What Kim will do with the military remains a fiercely debated question in Seoul and Washington. The issue also holds deep implications for an impoverished country of 24 million that channels its scant resources toward weapons and nuclear technology.

In power for seven months now, Kim has given no clear sign that he will de-emphasize the military or push for the economic reforms that his father and grandfather long resisted. But some experts see a pattern emerging as Kim shuffles the military leadership: He sidelines hard-liners and replaces them with Workers’ Party bureaucrats — precisely the group that had been marginalized under the military-first policy of his father, Kim Jong Il.

“It’s clear there is an internal conflict between the royal family and the military,” said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Kookmin University. He said Kim Jong Eun, joined by his powerful aunt and uncle, has aligned himself with top Workers’ Party members and is “dressing them up in military uniforms.”

Still, Lankov and others cautioned that the changes might not indicate an actual policy shift.

“We tend to believe the military might be hard-liners and party members are technocrats,” Lankov said. “That might indicate a more relaxed policy line, but it’s too early to say. Because people usually fight not over ideas — they fight over yachts and nice houses.”

Since Kim Jong Il’s death in December, North Korea has offered the outside world conflicting evidence that a shift is underway.

The government infuriated its neighbors by launching a rocket, but it also admitted to its own people, in a rare moment of transparency, that the launch had proved a dud. Kim Jong Eun gave two public speeches — something his reclusive father never did — but used them mostly to recite familiar slogans about military power. New apartments are rising in Pyongyang, but recent visitors to the country speak of 19th-century conditions in the vast rural areas — mostly barren land, where oxen are the primary mode of transport.

The picture of Kim’s intentions could become clearer in coming months, analysts say, now that he has his own team of leaders in place. The surprising dismissal of Ri on Monday was attributed to “illness” by the North’s state media, but outside experts interpreted the move as a firing. By booting a senior official whom his father had appointed to oversee the hereditary power transfer, Kim Jong Eun “kicked off the training wheels,” Scott Snyder, of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a blog post.

“I see the dismissal of Ri as the last step of a military shuffle,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea researcher at the Sejong Institute in Seoul. “There is a possibility that Ri had resisted the party’s control over the military.”

Some of the most notable shuffling happened in April at a major national conference. Aside from Kim, who was given a handful of the supreme titles held by his father and grandfather, the clear winner was Choe Ryong Hae, a mid-level bureaucrat who emerged with across-the-board power that brought him into the Kim family’s inner circle.

Choe was also named a vice marshal in the military, unprecedented for a civilian in the ­military-first era, according to Luke Herman, a North Korea leadership expert.

Even before Wednesday’s announcement, there was little reason to doubt Kim’s No. 1 position in military, analysts say. But he officially still held the rank of general, which technically left him below a handful of “vice marshals,” including Ri.

“The whole issue just shows that although Kim Jong Eun is very young, he is eager to prove that he is no longer the puppet controlled by some senior minister reigning behind the curtain,” said Zhu Feng, of Peking University’s School of International Studies. “He’s able to establish his absolute authority in the system and has capacity to govern the country directly.”

Only Kim’s father and grandfather have held military ranks higher than marshal. Founder Kim Il Sung was named generalissimo in 1992, and Kim Jong Il was awarded the title posthumously.

 

Original Article 

Kim Jong Un’s First Speech Exalts Military, Unification

Kim Jong Un speaks at a military parade in Pyongyang celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth on April 15th, 2012, as seen from space. Photo credit Digital Globe, Inc. via MSNBC.

As far as we know, Kim Jong Il, late president of North Korea, spoke publicly one time only during his thirty years in the limelight of his country’s ruling party. When he did, it was a single line. His father, Kim Il Sung, had given a speech during celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the North Korean People’s Army’s establishment; after the speech, the younger Kim stepped to the microphone and voiced his only public sentiment: “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the Korean people’s army!” (see it in this video).

That was in 1992. The Western media heard his voice a few more times; for instance, in this video from 2007. Still, he gave no more speeches that his own country would hear.

Kim Jong Un gave his first public speech on April 15th, during the 100th-anniversary celebrations of his grandfather’s birth. It is the nation’s most important holiday. The younger Kim’s speech was extensive—20 minutes long—and stands in sharp contrast to his father’s reclusiveness.

Yet the content of the speech matches the sentiment shared by his father’s single line almost perfectly. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea honing capability to attack Seoul: USFK commander

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In the News – N. Korea honing capability to attack Seoul: USFK commander

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, March 28 (Yonhap) — The commander of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula expressed concern Wednesday that North Korea’s new leadership will trigger a military conflict based on a “miscalculation.”

Before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. James Thurman said the North continues improving its ability to attack the South Korean capital of Seoul.

“The first thing I worry about every day is a miscalculation on somebody’s part that causes a conflict that he hadn’t planned for,” he said at a hearing on the security condition on the peninsula.

He also said he is worried about the asymmetric capabilities, including special operations forces and cyber-attack units. Continue reading

Decoding Images from North Korea

This footage, seen by countless Americans on YouTube, leaves many with images that are easily misunderstood and are not easily decoded. To the common viewer, it most likely underlines the assumptions that Westerners already have of North Korea—that Kim Jong Il’s citizens loved him and Kim Il Sung and that the citizens have the same goals and ideals as the government. This footage, however, just like the propaganda videos broadcasting happy civilians, is state controlled, and therefore requires another look. The ultimate question is whether or not this act of grieving is voluntary or not, shedding light onto the real loyalty and culture of the citizens. Continue reading