Reform in North Korea "a foolish and silly dream," says Pyongyang


North Korean soldiers salute during a military parade to mark 100 years since the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012.


Ed Jones

Those expecting to see reform in North Korea should be aware that they're waiting on "a foolish and silly dream."

A spokesman for the North Korean government has set the record straight, following recent rumors that new leader Kim Jong Un planned to begin opening up the secretive communist state.

Don't look out for that any time soon. In an interview published today, a spokesman for North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea dismissed the talk of change as "ridiculous rhetoric."

"To expect 'policy change' and 'reform and opening' from the DPRK [North Korea] is nothing but a foolish and silly dream," the official told state-run news agency KCNA, "just like wanting the sun to rise in the west."

The spokesman accused South Korea of spreading the rumors in an attempt to impose its own, capitalist system on the North.

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Western media has been speculating about whether the young Kim will break with his father and grandfather's policies ever since he took power in December. The talk began to take specific shape earlier this month, when an anonymous source told Reuters that Kim planned to reduce the military's control over the national economy.

The rumors were sufficient to send North Korean rice prices climbing, as middlemen began hoarding their stock in anticipation of new business opportunities.

Some North Korea watchers were unconvinced, however: in a report released last week, the International Crisis Group said there was "nothing to suggest that the new leader is or will become inclined to take measures that would either improve the lot of the country's citizens or reduce the regional frictions that Pyongyang is at the centre of."

Kim Jong Un needs to maintain the ideology established by his family in order to justify his own position as hereditary ruler, the ICG argued. So doing will keep the country poor and food insecurity high – which in the long-term, according to the ICG, could threaten the regime's grip on power.

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