What counts as progress in North Korea

by on September 4, 2012 at 11:14 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

Some analysts say they have been surprised at the new leader’s [Kim’s] willingness to criticize the status quo, most notably during a visit four months ago to an amusement park.

Although state media normally describe the North as a socialist paradise, they portrayed Kim touring the park grounds and grumbling about the state of disrepair. He spotted chipping paint, cracks in the pavement and sprouting weeds, which he plucked one by one “with an irritated look,” one media account said.

During the visit, Kim chided officials for letting the park fall into such a sorry state and for their “outdated, ideological” way of thinking. He appointed a top deputy to oversee improvements.

A follow-up report two weeks later said that “soldier-builders” were “now waging an all-out drive to turn the above-said [amusement park] into a more modern recreation ground.”

The article outlines some agricultural reforms as well.

1 MikeP September 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Shovel ready!

2 Nicoli September 4, 2012 at 12:34 pm

The ag reforms are notable, I wonder if they’ll last.

“Those measures, according to the reports, reduce the size of cooperative farm units from between 10 and 25 farmers to between four and six. The decrease is critical because it allows one or two households, not entire communities, to plan and tend to their own farms. Farmers still must hit production quotas, but they can keep 30 percent of their crops, up from less than 10 percent. They can sell the rest to the government at market prices, not state-fixed prices, and they can keep (and sell privately) anything exceeding the quota.”

3 Andrew' September 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I love how the government comes in and declares “family farms shall be!” as if they invented the concept.

4 TJIC September 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm

> they can keep 30 percent of their crops

So that’s a 70% marginal tax rate … better than the 75% rate under FDR!

5 MikeP September 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm

And North Korea hasn’t yet gone so far as the US did in 1942 with Wickard v. Filburn!

6 Brandon Berg September 5, 2012 at 6:04 am

Unless I’m misreading, that’s the inframarginal tax rate, and they get to keep everything beyond the quota. Kind of like the Social Security tax.

7 Nicoli September 5, 2012 at 9:12 am

My read is that the farmers have to meet the quota then keep 30% beyond that.

8 Andrew' September 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm

“Kim’s] willingness to criticize the status quo, most notably during a visit four months ago to an amusement park.”

I know, right? I went to an amusement park the other day and I said “this sucks!” I freaking hate heat and lines. Then I walked through the gift shop and said “seriously?!?” What we need is like, 30 (40?) Kim’s to run around and straighten out these hellholes.

9 Jared September 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

American amusement park elites have unfortunately proven unwilling to sacrifice their selfishness to the inspired directives of such luminaries.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2I7rlmefA8

10 Brandon September 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I’m pretty sure that, in North Korea, the roller-coasters ride you.

11 Affe September 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm

And by “roller coasters” you mean “T-34’s painted bright red and riding back and forth over some disside… err, small earthen bumps”

12 Barkley Rosser September 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm

There are serious signs that the new Kim may actually be paying attention to what the Chinese have been saying to the North Korean leadership for a long time. It may well prove to be mostly talk in the end (although the ag reforms are significant by themselves, if kept), and we have seen this sort of thing previously from other dictator sons of dictator fathers (think Basher al-Assad), but it may also be that young Kim is waiting to more solidly consolidate his power (there have been some scattered purges of older hardliners in the military recently) before he makes more substantial moves towards reform. It is always easy to dismiss the possibiliy of reform out of a dictatorial leader prior to his actually doing it.

13 Casey September 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Doesn’t anyone remember the similar small shows of reform made when Kim Jong Ill took over from his father just a decade or so ago? I see no reason to take these likewise very feeble gestures as amounting to very much just yet. Until we see any real radical proposals or some kind of glastnoss I wouldn’t get very excited.

14 Richard September 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

How do you say Potemkin village in Korean?

15 MoreCowbell September 6, 2012 at 11:17 am

How does an amusement park even work in North Korea? Is it just members of the Kim family going on roller coasters together, looking around, and wondering where the rest of the crowd is?

16 MkeC September 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm

It is worth noting that said dictator was educated in Switzerland, where as you may know, “state of good repair” is more or less the national religion.

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