North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech shows the young leader is placing a high priority on the economy, analysts in Seoul said. In a 30-minute address Friday, Kim appeared to stress economic development over military power.
Cheong Seong-chang, director of unification strategy at the Sejong Institute, noted that Kim has been focusing less on the military-first policy in his annual speech since he took power in late 2011. The change shows Kim is gaining confidence in his power, according to Cheong.
“Politically, Kim appears to believe he has stabilized his grip on power. With submarine-launched ballistic missile tests, he might feel his country has secured deterrent against the United States and South Korea militarily,” Cheong said.
Lim Eul-chul, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said Kim appears to be seeking economic self-reliance in anticipation of prolonged international sanctions. “The North Korean regime isn’t expecting international sanctions to be lifted anytime soon, so it has been focusing its efforts on creating foundation for self-reliance. Related policies have been introduced during the last four years,” Lim said.
Yang Moon-soo, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies, expects Kim to pursue pragmatic economic policies this year.