Nobody can say that Kim Jong Un isn't making waves. The most recent news has him sacking his mentor, Gen. Ri Yong Ho, who has supposedly resigned for "health" reasons. In his place Kim has appointed General Hyon Yong Choi, a relative unknown. Widely seen as a way for Kim to cement his position of power, it can also be seen as a warning shot by him and his closest advisors to potential rivals in the military who might be interested in a palace revolt.
On top of all of this are the atmospherics. Perhaps you've seen the pictures of the Mickey Mouse costumes performing on North Korean TV in front of an all girl orchestra (scantily clad by North Korean standards because they're wearing sleeveless dresses). Even more startling is Kim Jong Un's woman of mystery. This very attractive woman is now in the background at many public events that the little dictator is attending. Little is known about her except for the very attractive black dress and high heels that she wears. You can believe me when I tell you that this is not the usual North Korean fashion statement.
Other changes appear to be happening as well. When Kim appeared at a textile firm, he gave directions that they should be producing clothing that is up to date with current worldwide fashionrather than the notoriously drab Mao jackets and caps. One can only assume that the North Korean textile mills will now be gearing up to flood the market with imitation Nike products. But the very fact that Kim is speaking in public is monumental as his father never deigned to do so.
It's even been reported in the national press that South Korean vandals have been defacing giant stone monuments worshiping Kim's father and grandfather. A more likely explanation is that some of the population has been exposed to the comparatively good life in China, and they realize that North Korea does not live up to its claim of having the highest standard of living in the world. Is there some perestroika brewing or whatever they might be calling it in Korean? Is there some kind of potential Korean Spring?
Unfortunately, US North Korean specialists appear to be in agreement that the answer to these questions is, "No." Many people make the mistake in assuming that North Korea is a communist country. Despite the lip service to Marxist principles, North Korea is in fact a hereditary monarchy. I talked to a South Koren once who referred to Kim Jong Il as a king, and North Korea has now been governed by three generations of Lil' Kims one after the other.
Of all of the countries in the world, North Korea is the clear winner of the nightmare that George Orwell painted in his classic 1984. In fact, the change in generals gives all of us a clue as to the real nature of North Korean family. Both generals have the middle name of Yong. This is a family name. And the complete structure of the North Korean ruling class is hardly anything more than an ingrown clique. Perhaps the closest society in the Middle East to North Korea is Syria.
But Syria has a standard of living far surpassing anything the average North Korean could even dream of. The cast of hundreds of generals surrounding the official pictures of whatever (fill in the blank) Leader are the intertwined power structure supporting the dictator, and the dictator will remain there as he is the only person to hold the entire society together. And since he's in his late twenties, one can only assume that he's more interested in sex than his father was when he died. Alas,for the time being it appears as if it's only about atmospherics.
It's just about impossible to make a revolution when you're starving to death, and this factor more than anything will guarantee that there will be no peoples' revolt in Pyongyang in the near future.