«Wind of change» blow in North Korea… but is the country ready to adopt the Chinese model?

By Panayiotis Alimisis*

The most isolated and mysterious country in the world seems to get… ‘bored’ of the old system, looking now for a radical transformation. However the Kim Yong Un regime, is not ready to accept any significant change of its status, because so far, the North Koreans have sowed a blind fearful devotion, which helps the ruling elites to enjoy an absolute power. The regime did try in recent years to become a «gift bearer» just to keep its close associates happy. Nowadays, anybody in high rank can enjoy mobile phones (with no connection to internet or the outside world) luxury cars (only for few), new apartment blocks (for hard working party workers…), televisions (broadcast only one state run channel) traffic lights, new busses and a new airport… empty of airplanes.

All these façade achievements, though, directed only to the few who devote themselves to Kim family and the despotic army. Despite the fact that economy has grow 4% the last two years under severe sanctions from the West, this «growth» excludes largely the vast majority of the people (around 20 million) who resident in the countryside, and most of them scavenging the rubbish to find food.

The foundations of change truly have been laid in North Korea, if we contrast today’s image with 15 years ago. But it’s not certain if the country is capable to follow the Chinese economic miracle of the ‘90’s  and 2000’s. China, the only friend of North Korea, abandoned the communist economic and social system since the mid 90’s and began a transformation, which lead to the economic miracle of today. However China always had a huge man power (over 1 billion people), vast resources, is a permanent member of the security council in the UN, and has a long establish Chinese community which work abroad and study new cutting edge western technologies. North Korea never had these advantages; therefore, the country cannot adopt the Chinese model successfully in a short or long term period of time.

But if something ‘big’ happens in the next decade, most likely will be the opening of the economy in connection to ‘friendly’ China. Already Chinese goods flow the street markets of major North Korean cities under the… nose of the authorities. For the Kim Yong Un regime a big Chinese investment at any level, will save the «divine» status of it, and guarantee its existence.  Alternatively, if South Korean and American corporations ‘take over’ the economy, that will bring inevitably western style democracy and life style, marking the end of a 70 years brutal rule.


*Panayiotis Alimisis is journalist. He studied Modern History and International Relations at London Metropolitan University     

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