Unlike his father and late leader Kim Jong-il who pursued “songun,” or military-first, policy, the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pursues the “byeongjin” policy of seeking both economic and nuclear development simultaneously.
“Kim Jong-un has from day one of his leadership declared that he wants to improve the material living conditions of his people,“ said Ruediger Frank, a North Korea expert at the University of Vienna.
He has tried to do that within the constraints of the existing system,” Frank said. “I had estimated that he would need about five years to find out that this does not work, that the system itself is the problem. The time is almost up.”
As Kim has consolidated his leadership and the economic situation in the North is relatively stable, the emerging middle class and the growing inflow of information from the outside, in particular via China, have put the regime under high pressure for reform, the expert said.