(Seoul) He was said to be very young, very weak, inexperienced. But since taking office this week after the sudden death of his father ten years ago, Kim Jong-un has cleared doubts about his family’s brutal rule in North Korea.
Early predictions of training, coalition leadership or a military coup were crushed by hundreds of executions and purges that did not save anyone, not even his family members or old guards.
Ruthless power integration
This ruthless consolidation of power, coupled with the personality that seems to fit the television campaign, has allowed Kim to make clear that his grip on the country is complete.
But after ten years in power, his rule could soon be hit by a severe storm of painful sanctions, epidemics and mounting economic problems. As Kim has publicly promised, his regime could stumble upon a task that many experts consider impossible if it fails to improve both its nuclear weapons and its dying economy.
The moderate economic growth that could be achieved in a few years through trade and market-based reforms has intensified international sanctions over the years beginning in 2016, with Kim accelerating the development of his nuclear weapons and missiles capable of striking the United Nations. States and its Asian allies.
Trapped at home
After being briefly isolated for two summits with former President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019, Kim is now stuck at home, battling an economic downturn worsened by border closures due to the epidemic.
Park Von-kon, a political scientist at Eva University in Seoul, said how Kim will run the North Korean economy over the next few years could determine the fate of his regime and even the future of his family dynasty.
“The nuclear weapons program, the economy and the stability of the regime are intertwined. If the nuclear issue is not resolved and the economy does not improve, it will cause instability and chaos in North Korean society, ”he said.
To revive his economy, which has been plagued by decades of inefficient administration and swollen military spending, Kim must remove all barriers.
But sanctions are unlikely to be lifted unless Kim takes decisive action toward nuclear weapons. The Govt-19 crisis has crippled some of Kim’s key economic goals by criticizing trade with China, which is Kim’s sole ally and key trading partner.
Lack of food
South Korean intelligence recently told parliament that North Korea’s annual trade with China had fallen by two-thirds to $ 185 million as of September 2021. The parliamentarians added that the shortage of medicines and other essential items has accelerated the spread of water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever.
Negotiations with the United States have stalled, but Andrei Langov, a political scientist at Kukmin University in Seoul, believes Pyongyang could benefit from increased tensions between Washington and Beijing.
China is ready to keep North Korea alive by providing aid, fuel and food, and Kim is relieving pressure to negotiate with the United States.
“Instead of growth, North Korea will have a stagnation, but not a severe crisis,” Langov said. For Kim Jong-un and his elite, this is an acceptable compromise. ”
North Korea has actively intervened to tighten state control over the economy after borders were closed due to the epidemic. This would have eliminated Kim’s previous reforms, which had allowed private investment and given more autonomy and market concessions to state – owned enterprises and industries to facilitate domestic production and domestic trade.
It also appears that the North Korean leadership is trying to suppress the use of the US dollar and other foreign currencies in the market, which could indicate the melting of their foreign exchange reserves.
Restoring central control over the economy may be essential in mobilizing the resources needed for Kim to expand his nuclear program, otherwise it will be problematic due to the deteriorating economy.
As Kim suspended testing of nuclear equipment and long-range missiles for the next three years, he stepped up the firing of short-range missiles threatening US allies such as Japan and South Korea.
“Kim was caught up in the chaos of nuclear weapons, but he is advancing with the paradoxical policy of developing nuclear weapons to get out of it,” said Go Myong-hyun, a political research firm based in Seoul.
“Penalties […] Is going to be sustainable, and returning to a state-controlled economy has not been the solution in the past, and it will not be the answer now. At some point, Kim will have to decide what to do with his nuclear weapons, and that moment may come relatively soon. ”