Other  Foreign Affairs and National Security  2012.04.12

Ifri-CIGS Op-Ed Series, "Prospects for 6-party talks: Nuclear weapons are a means of survival for Kim Jung Un"

A previous version of this text was published by The Economist (January 10, 2012)

Deepening their partnership, Institut français des relations internationales (Ifri) and the Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS) are launching a series of op-eds, written both by Ifri and CIGS experts. This new series aims at providing the European and Asian public with original and different visions on the rapidly evolving international affairs.

The most imperative duty of the third-generation Kim Jong Un is the "survival" of North Korea. This will require not only a smooth transfer of power from his father but also shoring up the national economy. This is because I feel the current regime will sooner or later come to the end of its tether unless North Korean economy breaks free of foreign dependence and begins to grow autonomously.

In May 2011 I had the opportunity to visit the capital Pyongyang and its environs. The North Korean economy I saw there was truly miserable. In farming villages, although rice planting had already begun I hardly saw any equipment such as tractors or rice planting machines.

I realized then that there would be no tomorrow for North Korean agriculture still done entirely with manual labor. What's more, the people's economic grievances will likely grow as the heredity of power reaches a third generation. The mourning period aside, even Kim Jong Un, for his part, will eventually have to improve the national economic system and build a society capable of reproduction.

The bottom line is that it is not only a matter of Kim Jong Un surviving as the third generation of the "Kim Dynasty" but also the fact that he has been left with the extremely difficult task of giving the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" system a chance to survive in the mournful years to come....

"Prospects for 6-party talks: Nuclear weapons are a means of survival for Kim Jung Un"