N. Korean Edict Meets Rare Resistance

Unrest over private markets could signal trouble for Kim
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2009 4:05 PM CST
In this undated photo released by Korean Central News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, center, inspects a steel complex in North Hamgyong province.   (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
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(Newser) – When Kim Jong Il imposed new rules this month to crack down on private markets, he encountered a rare thing from his obedient citizenry—resistance. One eastern city had a riot, and public anger forced the government to beat a rare retreat on some of the new currency restrictions, reports the Washington Post. The development "reveals new constraints on Kim's power and may signal a fundamental change in the operation of what is often called the world's most repressive state," writes Blaine Harden.

The private markets—which hawk everything from cheap electronics to food—may have become too powerful to control. Not only do they feed and provide work for about half the nation's 24 million people, one analyst says they've created a "new power elite" of people who pay bribes to government bureaucrats. Kim may have been trying to nip them in the bud before his successor-son has to deal with even more powerful markets, but he apparently underestimated the task. The six-decade family dynasty could be facing a genuine threat to its long-term reign.

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