Kim Jong Un’s Risky Gambit

in Program

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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