I’ve been watching the news coming out of North Korea rather closely since the last dictator, Kim Jong Il died last December. Over the past week or so things seem to be moving (by North Korean standards) at light speed. Here are recent headlines (with the kicker at the end):
+ July 13, 2012: Who is North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un’s “Mystery Woman?”
+ July 15, 2012: Is Kim Jong Un Opening Up North Korea?
+ July 16, 2012: Top North Korean General Loses Job.
+ July 20, 2012: Kim Plans Economic Reform in North Korea.
. . . and, in late-breaking news: Kim [Jon Il's] Ex-Sushi Chef — “Kenji Fujimoto” — Invited Back to North Korea ( ! ).
My guess: 1. Jong Un went to school in Switzerland and didn’t want to look like a dork dictator in front of all his old classmates. 2. He’s got a hot, pop-singer girlfriend who’s just dying to make it big in South Korea and the West. 3. He wants to crawl out from under his dad’s and grandpop’s shadow. 4. He sees how the West turned on a dime with Myanmar/Burma once it began reforms. 5. Certain People in China told him it would be in his own best interest. Some combination of all that.
In 2005 I was in North Eastern China, not too awfully far from its boarder with North Korea. Various adventures were had. My last night staying in that part of China, though, I spoke with a local government official with some degree of frankness about the mood in China about North Korea. This tale tells something of those several days in Anshan, China, with the payoff at the end, in re: a “Practical North Korea.”