Kim Jong Un is in the midst of a complex juggling act. He has to keep at least four crucial, long-term initiatives in the air, and he cannot afford to drop any of them. Roughly speaking, Kim’s concerns seem to be the following:
- Improving relations with the US, ROK and China;
- Launching economic reforms, including a major overhaul of the Cabinet;
- Revamping the ingrained habits and mindsets in the central and provincial bureaucracies; and
- Keeping the Korean People’s Army (KPA) happy and occupied.
How extensive the scenario planning for such a complicated and intertwined set of policy goals has been we can’t know, but despite the impression that they are impulsive and short-sighted, in many ways, the North Koreans tend to be meticulous and long-range in their approach. The evidence we do have suggests planning started at least in 2017 and possibly as early as the May 2016 Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Congress.
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