Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Will Kim Jong Un As Head Of State Move More Towards Markets?

This may be.  In April DPRK leader Kim Jong Un was finally named "Head of State," more specifically Chair of the Commission for State Affairs.  Implicitly until now that position had been held by his late father, although he has long held certain crucial ruling positions such as head of the ruling party and commander-in-chief.  Nkeconwatch now reports on a July 12 announcment that at the same time in April there was also a rewrite of the North Korean constitution. Nkeconwatch sees certain changes that indicate economic systemic changes.

The crucial wording change relates to how state-owned corporations should operate to determine the production and distribution decisions.  The former wording was that this should be based on "work team system," which is interpreted as following directives of the ruling party.  This has been replaced by focusing on "responsible management system for socialist corporations," which is seen as granting more autonomy to the managers in the firms.

The main question impossible to know the answer to at this time is whether this change points to a new direction of policy or simply ratifies and legalizes marketizing changes that have already taken place, especially in agriculture.  The coincidence of this constitutional change with Kim Jong Un finally assuming the one remaining top position he had not yet held is consistent with either view or even a combination of both.

Barkley Rosser

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