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Not your dad's North Koreans

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By Jason Lim

North Koreans of the "arduous march" generation ― those who starved to death in mid-1990s in quiet desperation while waiting in their homes for the public distribution system to deliver rations that never came ― are forever gone. Today's North Koreans are market-savvy burgeoning capitalists.

There is now a moneyed class ― consisting mostly of party and military officials who have profited from the trade between North Korea and China. There is conspicuous wealth, from new high-rises and department stores filled with modern electronics to pricey restaurants and amusement parks. North Koreans have found a taste for money and are not happy that the current sanctions are cramping their style. More importantly, the sanctions are cramping the style of Kim's core power base, the Pyongyang-living, inner-circle bureaucracy that Kim depends on to keep his regime afloat.

The bitter rhetoric in recent pronouncements allows us to glimpse into the economic pain that the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant shutdown of North Korea's border with China has had, and Kim's real concern over his ability to deliver the goods again. Kim sold them the inter-Korean rapprochement and the Hanoi summit only to come home empty-handed, and things have progressively gotten worse.

Kim's legitimacy depends on presenting the Kim........

© The Korea Times