Kim Jong-Un's Reform Efforts Said to Be Blocked by Hardliners

Efforts by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to implement modest reforms intended to help revitalize the economy have been blocked by conservative hardliners within the ruling Workers Party and the military, according to a source cited by Chosun Ilbo, S. Korea’s mass-market daily.

Last year Kim, 30, had ordered the nation’s leading academics to devise a set of modest market-oriented reforms. They obliged by submitting recommendations to increase private ownership of farms, businesses and factories. The proposals pointed to the reforms China had instituted beginning in 1979 which have transformed the once impoverished Communist nation into the world’s leading economic growth engine.

But Pyongyang’s ruling-party hardliners attacked the reform proposals as evidencing a “reactionary” mindset and called for severe punishment and “stamping out” of those who submitted them. As a result the academics who had submitted them suffered punishment, including undergoing harsh indoctrination sessions.

Kim appears also to have faced resistance from the other end of the political spectrum among the ruling elite. Last April he had ordered home the children of diplomats who were studying abroad. That order was vigorously opposed by the more outward-looking members of the ruling party — many of whom were no doubt using their children to funnel money overseas — and was rescinded five months later.

This report of opposition suggests that the young new ruler has been struggling to cement his position as the regime’s undisputed ruler. It may also explain why much of his rhetoric about improving the people’s living standards may have fallen by the wayside during the past year.