Ten years ago, former North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Il died, marking the beginning of his family’s third-generation of dynastic rule. Since taking the reins, Kim Jong Un has bound his consolidation of power to the achievement of a credible and reliable nuclear deterrent.
Of all the issues that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had to face during his first ten years in office, managing relations with South Korea was certainly one of the most relevant. Nonetheless, for several years his leadership seemed to downplay the centrality of inter-Korean relations as it put far more efforts into the domestic consolidation of power and the advancement of the country’s nuclear and missile programs to secure the country from possible attacks by external forces and to gain a stronger position in future negotiations with the United States.
Kim Jong Un’s first eight years at the helm of the regime were marked by a stronger propaganda emphasis on improving the living standards of the North Korean people, who would “never have to tighten their belt again”. However, in February 2019, his promises crumbled in the face of the impossibility to get a relaxation of sanctions.
The key difference in the approach towards North Korea between the Biden administration and the previous US administrations is that there is no prerequisite for resuming working-level talks. Yet, Pyongyang has not been responsive to the US’ attempts to reach out.
North Korea under Kim Jong Un remains a highly authoritarian, personalistic state. But there are definite differences between the state and society he leads and that of both his father and grandfather.
Kim Jong Un became the leader of North Korea ten years ago. Seemingly, he had a single goal in mind upon taking office: to avoid the fate of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. That is, to avoid being removed from power by a US-led or US-supported coalition and be executed by those he used to oppress.
North Korea is among the least wired countries worldwide. Yet, an increasing number of cyber activities are attributed to the regime in Pyongyang – and these activities have shown growing sophistication and success over the last few years. Its cyber operations will likely continue to increase as they fulfill at least three strategic purposes and exhibit favorable cost-benefit ratio for the North Korean regime.
In July 2021, commemorating the 60th anniversary of mutual defense treaty, Chinese President Xi Jinping said bilateral relations between China and North Korea should “unceasingly rise to new levels” in the world “undergoing profound changes unseen in a century.” How can one explain, in Xi Jinping’s own words, China’s “un
North Korea is currently deadlocked in a state of “double isolation,” which makes engaging with it highly difficult, if not impossible for the time being. Yet, the country will eventually come out of its self-imposed isolation and, in one way or another, will seek to re-engage with the international community. Whether this will occur in 2022 or in 2023 remains to be seen.
On May 1, 2020, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un made his first public reappearance after a 20-day absence during which international speculation about his health had been running rampant.
The performance of the North Korean economy is a mystery unlike that of any other country worldwide. The country publishes no economic statistics on a regular basis, and does not allow foreign scholars to inspect the capacity and output of industry. As a result, those who wish to get some (limited) grasp on what is happening inside the North must rely on official state pronouncements, accounts from visitors/foreign residents in the country, and South Korean media organizations with sources inside the country.
The issue regarding North Korean defectors has always been a very divisive one. As accessing North Korea remains difficult, first-hand testimonies and reports from defectors have become a valuable source of information to prove the degree of inhumanity of the Pyongyang regime.