Is Kim Jong-Un a Reformer?

Signs point to the potential for actual change in North Korea
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 4, 2012 1:11 PM CDT
Kim Jong Un shakes hands with war veteran Ri Ul Sol during a ceremony commemorating the Korean War armistice at an undisclosed place in North Korea.   (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)

(Newser) – Don't get your hopes up too high, but Kim Jong Un has been sending signals that he could be a very different kind of ruler than his dad. Recent Kim speeches have included promises to "improve people's living standards," and even rebukes of other officials for their "outdated ideological" ways, the Washington Post reports. More importantly, he's implemented a policy allowing some farmers to keep crops they produce in excess of quota and sell them on the private market, in a tantalizing gesture towards capitalism.

Experts say there's ample reason for caution—for one thing the government said in July that any perceived ideological shift was a "hallucination"—but diplomats say North Korea sounds desperate to boost production. "Obviously they didn't use the term 'economic reform.' Those are dangerous terms,'" says one official. "But the clear message I got from senior people was: We know we need to build the economy." (Read more North Korea stories.)

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