Kim Jong Il’s Grip Slowly Weakens
Two articles in the DailyNK point to growing economic and social problems in North Korea. In the first, an interview with a Pyongyang resident highlights the growing disarray the country is falling into as the regime seems unable to carry out and enforce its policies and citizens become bolder in flaunting the regime’s draconian regulations:
“With the restriction on conducting business in the jangmadang, residents have been congregating to ‘alley markets’ around residential areas. There are 1~2 of these markets in each neighborhood and there are at least 100-some people who conduct business in the alley markets of Doru 1 and 2-dong in Songshin District, Pyongyang. Before, there were only 30~40 people.”
He expressed, “Places that are larger than alley markets have been appearing. Under the Songshin overpass, a large market started operating not too long ago after six in the evening and when there are a lot of customers, 400-some people sell goods.”
Recently imposed restrictions on marketplaces, including restrictions on who can trade, what can be traded, and for how much appear to be ineffective, according to this testimony. People need to eat and earn a buck and nothing can stop them from doing so. Such is human nature:
Also, after 5:30 in the evening, the sight of people selling goods on busy roads or at bus stations have been appearing. They also have to undergo inspections, but the number of people who are selling goods are small and it is mostly elderly women who are selling simple food products, so the inspection units have gone easy on them.
Kim Jong Il is supposed to have ratified the approval of the proposal, but the grievances of the civilians have been continuing nonstop. There is resentment towards the Party Secretary, but also towards the General who ratified the approval without having visited the jangmadang even once.”
In the second article, a recent report based on defectors’ testimonies proposes that Kim Jong Il is loosing his grip on power and residents secretly ridicule Kim:
“the ‘Supreme Leader system’ does not seem to be rooted in the citizens’ consciousness. Many defectors blame Kim Jong Il for operating a poor administration. These days, North Korean citizens ridicule Kim Jong Il as the ‘potbelly,’ or ‘that guy.’ This shows Kim’s fall from trust among the people.”
Damage done to North Korea’s political system during the March of Tribulations has yet to be repaired:
“The governing capacity of subordinate and local party organizations damaged during the March of Tribulation [the period of mass starvation in the 1990s] have not yet been restored,” explained Lee. “Additionally, due to the corruption of the party organization, orders and instructions from the central party cannot be conveyed to local cells and local party organizations.”
Taken together, these two reports present a disturbing picture of life in North Korea. Of course, it should be noted, that there is plenty of defector testimony that seems to indicate Kim’s regime remains firmly entrenched in power. Ideological brainwashing, indoctrination and instilling an “us-vs-them mentality” provides some of the regime’s toughest bulwarks against collapse. Never underestimate the ability of the human mind to support inane positions in the pursuit of freedom from cognitive dissonance.