North Korean Economic Reform and Political Stability

Saturday, June 1, 1996

Using a model with a strong track record of predictive accuracy, we posit the unraveling of Kim Jong-Il's hold over power in North Korea. Our analysis suggests that the North Korean military and leaders of heavy industry in North Korea are pivotal powers who control North Korea's destiny over the next few years. We infer from the evidence that Kim Jong-Il's family and the second generation of leaders are opportunists who are likely to break ranks with Kim Jong-Il to secure their own well-being. The result of their anticipated break with Kim Jong-Il is likely to be a slowing of economic reform and of economic openings to South Korea. North Korea is expected to enter a period of political instability that will render Kim Jong-Il little more than a figurehead. Barring strategic efforts by the partisans and some others with credible leverage, North Korea is unlikely to improve its economy or stabilize its government in the next two or three years.