Thaw in Pyongyang?

Kremlinology is not dead – it has merely left the Kremlin and moved East. Especially now that a previously unknown twenty-something is apparently in charge of the North Korean dictatorship, a similar industry of analysts has sprung up to read between the lines of pronouncements and events there to try to figure out that regime’s basic motivations in the face of overwhelmingly uniform, Nazi-party-rally-style public demonstrations.

Now Kim Jong Un has deposited a hefty clue to his mind-set, in the form of his first-ever public speech on the occasion of celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. The German newsmagazine Focus sees encouraging signs here, as outlined in its (unsigned) article Kim Jong Un – a new leadership style for North Korea?

True, true, Kim did not use the occasion to announce any new policies. Indeed, he took pains to emphasize his country’s long-standing “military first” policy when it comes to public expenditures. Yet a certain Paik Hak Soon, from the South Korean think-tank the Sejong Institute who is quoted extensively in this piece, claims nonetheless to see in Kim’s speech and elsewhere signs of a new openness in the North Korean leadership. After all, the regime also acknowledged the failure of its rocket-launch last Friday, which in itself was unprecedented. Plus, what foreign observers within the country as there are have reportedly picked up other signs of a thaw, including bigger markets and more widespread (though still tightly controlled) mobile telephone use.

By themselves, these indicators given in the Focus article do not seem too convincing to me. Plus, the world is still awaiting an expected North Korean nuclear test, and we’ll see how the outside assessments of that regime change after that happens. As is often the case these days, though, these observers could just go to Twitter to find the signs of more North Korean openness they are looking for – most particularly to the @KimJongNumberUn account, where the country’s young Supreme Leader lays out the sort of dilemmas he is facing for all to see:

Etiquette question: if your rocket fails do you still have to feed the scientists? Askin for a friend.

@KimJongNumberUn

KimJongNumberUn


He even offers occasional glimpses into his country’s culture, such as with his #NorthKoreanPickupLines series:

How’d you like a one-minute ride on my rocket? #NorthKoreanPickupLines

@KimJongNumberUn

KimJongNumberUn


Admittedly, there are also persistent rumors that this Twitter account is not actually genuine.

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