After his father in 2011, the basketball fan, who studied in Switzerland, found himself the leader of one of the most isolated countries on the planet.
Initially, he turned a blind eye to the growth of the black market and showed a willingness to loosen state control of the economy. According to the Central Bank of South Korea, these very modest private initiatives helped to record its strongest growth in 2016 in 17 years.
At the same time, he reached Seoul and went so far as to invite South Korean stars to the show in Pyongyang. In 2012, the musicians performed Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, six years after the K-pop stars included the title track of the American film “Rocky”.
Since then, international sanctions imposed in 2017 after missile tests and powerful nuclear tests have taken a huge toll on its economy. In January 2020, closing its borders to protect against the corona virus made the situation worse.
In response, the North Korean leader strengthened his grip and called for national unity, analysts said.
Troy Stangron, director of the Korean Economic Forum, said: “More censorship means less trust in the regime.
At the same time, analysts say the leader lost hope after his various meetings with US President Donald Trump, which ended in a stalemate in 2019. The two leaders did not agree on the terms of the easing of sanctions.
According to the Central Bank of South Korea, by 2020 the North will have experienced its worst recession in two decades.
At a ruling party conference in January, Kim Jong Un acknowledged mistakes in the implementation of his economic plan, calling the last five years “bad” for his country.
The regime officially regained control of all foreign trade and domestic markets. Pyongyang has enacted a law that imposes a 15-year prison sentence on holders of South Korean property.
The North Korean media quoted the leader as urging authorities to remove the “deadly cancer that threatens our ideology and our social structure and prevents one-way thinking.”
“In difficult times, the regime needs to strengthen its control to reassert its power,” he said. Stangron told AFP.
North Korea has long suppressed what it calls an “ideological and cultural invasion.” Access to the culture from abroad is strictly prohibited and prison sentences are supported.
All radios and televisions are primed to receive only state media, and North Koreans do not have access to a global Internet network.
But according to analysts, such censorship is difficult to complete, as foreign products are already widespread in North Korea, especially among the younger generation, especially thanks to USB drives illegally imported from China.
A study by the Institute for Peace and Coordination Studies at Seoul National University found that half of the 116 people who left North Korea in 2018 and 2019 saw “frequent” entertainment from South Korea.
Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the Korea National Coordinating Agency, said the “Jangmadang generation” – those born and raised during and after the 1990s famine – would oppose repression.
As a child the government was unable to provide them with food, they defended themselves, relied on the black market and grew less loyal to the rulers.
“A confrontation between Kim (Jong Un)’s conservative attitude and the North millennials who appreciate the South Korean series and BTS music and General Z will be inevitable,” he added.
“Music geek. Coffee lover. Devoted food scholar. Web buff. Passionate internet guru.”