North Korea reappoints “reformer” as premier

posted at 12:41 pm on April 1, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Talk about mixed messages.  While Pyongyang blusters about re-entering a state of war with Seoul and Washington and announces that its missiles are on alert and aimed at American targets, the Kim regime suddenly made its only known “reformer” the official face of the Kim regime:

 North Korea’s parliament named former premier Pak Pong-ju, who was sacked in 2007 for failing to implement economic reforms, as its prime minister on Monday in a move that cements the grip of the ruling Kim dynasty on key posts in the country.

Pak, believed to be in his 70s, is a key ally of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of the isolated state’s ruler Kim Jong-un, and worked for Jang’s wife, Kim’s aunt Kim Kyong-hui.

What’s going on?  The Reuters report makes it sound as though Kim Jong-un has managed to get around the grip of the military in Pyongyang.  Pak’s re-emergence follows the rehabilitation of Kim’s uncle, and negates a move made by the military six years ago:

Pak is a career technocrat, took the post of premier in 2003 to implement an ambitious economic reform policy that allowed autonomy in farm production and pricing liberalization that was brought in in July 2002.

But he was removed in 2007 when it became clear the steps aimed at boosting the impoverished state’s economy, which had experienced devastating famine in the 1990s, were not producing desired results and the North’s military began protests at the cabinet, wielding greater power on state matters.

The Washington Post’s Max Fisher warns not to expect much:

North Korea has appointed Pak Pong Ju, known as a reformer, as the country’s next premier, a job that officially makes him the head the national government. How big of a deal is this? Is Kim Jong Un signaling his desire to finally open up North Korea to the world? Sadly, we should probably set our expectations for “reform” pretty low. …

But Pak, whatever his ambition for reform, didn’t really live up to the world’s hopes last time around. Though he was sometimes compared to the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who transformed China in the early 1990s by liberalizing its economy, the two countries are more different than they might sometimes appear.

North Korea’s state ideology is about much, much more than socialism or command economics; it’s first and foremost about the fervent worship of the Kim family regime. Pyongyang’s governance style is what’s called “military-first.” Whereas almost every other country on Earth is “economy-first,” meaning that maintaining a good economy is the top priority, North Korea’s economy is secondary to the health and power of its military. This is served, in part, by maintaining a war footing and playing up the danger of outside threats. It’s really hard to liberalize your economy when you’re busy orchestrating one episode of nuclear brinksmanship after another. And a liberalized economy is one that takes a little bit of power away from the generals and hands it to the marketplace.

Perhaps the best reason to suspect that North Korean reform is not just around the corner is the fact that it could undermine the state ideology. Kim’s father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, are played up constantly in North Korean propaganda as the godlike architects of their country’s flawless system. As Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group wrote, “Reform in [North] Korea would require questioning what the greatest geniuses in history did wrong, and then changing it.” This is not a system that is equipped to handle change.

Still, it seems like an odd time to appoint Pak, whose presence cannot make the military very happy.  Of course, they may be so happy with the war rhetoric that they figure Pak won’t be much of a threat, but those holding power in totalitarian regimes are usually very jealous of anyone who might detract from it. The events of the last few weeks have made it pretty clear that the military is still controlling events in the DPRK, so Pak’s appointment might be their way of offering the West a way to climb down after having made their point in response to the election of Park Geun-hye in December.

The latest analysis of the nuclear test in February gives another indication that the military is driving events on the peninsula:

U.S. officials and independent experts say North Korea appears to have taken unusual steps to conceal details about the nuclear weapon it tested in February, fueling suspicions that its scientists shifted to a bomb design that uses highly enriched uranium as the core. …

U.S. officials anticipated the test and monitored it closely for clues about the composition of the bomb, which was the third detonated by North Korea since 2006. The first two devices were thought to have used plutonium extracted from a dwindling stockpile of the fissile material that North Korea developed in the late 1990s.

A successful test of a uranium-based bomb would confirm that Pyongyang has achieved a second pathway to nuclear weapons, using its plentiful supply of natural uranium and new enrichment technology. A device based on highly enriched uranium, HEU, also would deepen concerns about cooperation between the hermetic regime and Iran.

Don’t expect “reform” to be front and center in the DPRK’s agenda. It’s going to take a significant level of subtlety and skill to navigate this crisis over the next several months — which is why the appointment of Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan should raise eyebrows:

Caroline Kennedy has been asked to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Japan and is being vetted for the post, a Democrat familiar with the discussions told CNN on Monday.

Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, was a top backer of President Barack Obama during both of his presidential campaigns and served as the co-chair of his vice presidential search committee in 2008.

She’s the only surviving member of JFK’s family and has largely shunned the limelight and scrutiny associated with her famous last name. After publicly expressing interest in running for the U.S. Senate seat in New York vacated when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, she ultimately decided against making a bid, citing “personal reasons.”

She made speeches at the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions, both times recalling her famous relatives – in 2008, her speech served as a tribute to her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and in 2012 she noted that “like my father’s election in 1960, this is one of those elections where the future of our country is at stake.”

As Allahpundit asked in his Green Room post, why appoint someone with no diplomatic experience to a post that may have to deal with a shooting war if mistakes get made on any side?  Every President appoints rich donors and campaign activists to ambassadorial positions, but usually in out-of-the-way assignments where they can do little damage.  The relationship with Japan always has heavy implications for security in the Pacific and the US, but arguably more now than in decades.  Yet we’re going to appoint an ambassador whose greatest qualification is that she represents the Camelot of fifty years ago, when she wasn’t even a teenager.  That’s hardly smart power.


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they should have sent Caroline Kennedy as an ambassador to Russia. It’s a well known fact that alcohol alleviates the effects of radiation.

Archivarix on April 1, 2013 at 12:44 PM

“Shot in the back by his own troops” would be a happy ending to the Kim Regime. And other regimes…

wildcat72 on April 1, 2013 at 12:46 PM

they should have sent Caroline Kennedy as an ambassador to Russia. It’s a well known fact that alcohol alleviates the effects of radiation.

Archivarix on April 1, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Hussein should have sent her to Libya. There is a vacancy there, I hear… If they killed the gay man Obama last sent them, a woman should go over even better.

wildcat72 on April 1, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, was a top backer of President Barack Obama during both of his presidential campaigns and served as the co-chair of his vice presidential search committee in 2008.

This is one of the stupid people who gave us Joe Biden? That alone makes her unfit for any diplomatic posting.

Happy Nomad on April 1, 2013 at 12:52 PM

“I like, you know, like totally like am grateful to you know, be the ambassador to Japan. You know?”

-Ambassador Caroline Kennedy

portlandon on April 1, 2013 at 12:53 PM

A reformer in NorKor is a fellow who believes the peons eat too much.

pat on April 1, 2013 at 12:58 PM

What people don’t understand, is that the former community organizer, BHO, wasn’t just a run of the mill, organizer. He was an All Star! All that experience, plus his OJT as President, allows him to make such brilliant appointments that the rest of us are just too dense and ill-equiped to understand. Pity the poor, dumb Japanese!

tomshup on April 1, 2013 at 1:01 PM

First of all, I’m surprised the guy, and his family, is still alive.

It seems that the uncle is in control here. Maybe baby Kim’s rhetoric is hiss attempt to wrest control, via the military, from his uncle.

rbj on April 1, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Fantasizing here; I’d like to see her kidnapped, taken to some remote location without communications (or alcohol), and made to learn how to live like the people in “fly-over” country.

NO WAIT, better yet ………….. like the Amish.

listens2glenn on April 1, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Um, I like, um, you know, like totally like, um, am grateful to you know, be the ambassador to, um, Japan. You know?”

-Ambassador Caroline Kennedy

portlandon on April 1, 2013 at 12:53 PM

I had to throw in some “um’s,” because I’m hearing it more and more, from allegedly intelligent women, and they, apparently, don’t understand that it makes them sound like air-heads.

And, um, it’s like, um, really, like, um, wearing my ass out.

OhEssYouCowboys on April 1, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Bmore’s art is in this contest.

Schadenfreude on April 1, 2013 at 1:04 PM

North Korea reappoints “reformer” as premier

Come on, now … everyone knows that the chinless assad is “a REAL reformer”, as per Nazi Pelousi and the dems after their un-Constitutional trip to wine and dine the lesser assad for the dem Congressional foreign policy. All others are only pretend reformers, even with quotes.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on April 1, 2013 at 1:05 PM

which is why the appointment of Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan should raise eyebrows:

1. It proves how unserious and puerile the entire Obama entourage is.

2. It proves how stupid the country has become.

3. The land is snatched by idiots, and full of morons who vote for them.

The land deserves demise, in full. The majority of the people are simply too dumb to deserve better.

Schadenfreude on April 1, 2013 at 1:07 PM

It’s going to take a significant level of subtlety and skill to navigate this crisis over the next several months — which is why the appointment of Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan should raise eyebrows

With Barky occupooping the White House there’s no such thing as subtlety or skills in the Executive branch. Caroline Kennedy is perfect for the ambassadorship. She’s dumb enough and has the required “no experience in anything”. The funny (and truly pathetic) part is that I bet even Caroline Kennedy could get State to correctly translate “RESET” into Russian.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on April 1, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Ed,

Are you trying to turn us all to stone with your choice of front page pictures???

Gatsu on April 1, 2013 at 1:08 PM

This w/b a perfect April Fools, alas.

Schadenfreude on April 1, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Historically it has always been a shame that the US appoints non-diplomats as ambassadors. They don’t know the local languages, cultures, have no clue what goes on around them.

That Obama appoints sheer idiots into such significant lands is just a sign of Obama’s malintents for the US.

If you don’t wake up, may he destroy you in full. He is way ahead on all his plans.

Schadenfreude on April 1, 2013 at 1:12 PM

North Korea’s parliament named former premier Pak Pong-ju,

who was sacked in 2007

for failing to implement economic reforms, as its prime minister…

I always figured “Sacked” or “fired” meant one of two things…dead or lifetime labor camp.

JetBoy on April 1, 2013 at 1:19 PM

The Japan thing is about trying to make amends with the Kennedy family after Team Obama shafted her:

Seeking a position as an adviser on education policy, Caroline sent the White House a long memo detailing her suggestions for reform and asking for a meeting with the president. She never got a response.

Caroline again sought a meeting with Obama while he was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 2011, staying at a house close to Caroline’s. The president spurned her overture, and “a presidential snub had turned into an insult,” Klein observes.

Caroline heard back from White House sources that the president and first lady made catty remarks about how badly the Kennedy women dressed and how their homes were shabby.

Caroline felt that Michelle didn’t want the Kennedys to be part of the administration because she feared they would have too much influence over the president.

At a White House reception, Caroline said shaking hands with the first lady was “like shaking hands with a cold fish.”

Caroline was annoyed by what she called “odious” comparisons in the media between her mother Jackie and Michelle.

Caroline ultimately became so disillusioned about Obama that she said: “I can’t stand to hear his voice anymore. He’s a liar and worse.”

Robert_Paulson on April 1, 2013 at 1:19 PM

they should have sent Caroline Kennedy as an ambassador to Russia. It’s a well known fact that alcohol alleviates the effects of radiation.

Archivarix on April 1, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Meaning she has a drinking problem? Evidence? Caroline Kennedy isn’t qualified to be the ambassador to LegoLand but that doesn’t make her an alcoholic.

rrpjr on April 1, 2013 at 1:20 PM

As Allahpundit asked in his Green Room post, why appoint someone with no diplomatic experience to a post that may have to deal with a shooting war if mistakes get made on any side?

You appoint that kind of patsy when there’s no “diplomacy” to discuss.

JetBoy on April 1, 2013 at 1:21 PM

In North Korea…PAK-MAN!…and in Japan…Airhead!
…what could go wrong?

KOOLAID2 on April 1, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Caroline heard back from White House sources that the president and first lady made catty remarks about how badly the Kennedy women dressed and how their homes were shabby.

Wow. PKB!

Blake on April 1, 2013 at 1:31 PM

There is nothing like attaching an April Fool photo to this article.

onlineanalyst on April 1, 2013 at 1:33 PM

So Caroline can phone Hillary on “What difference does it make” policy advice or something…

workingclass artist on April 1, 2013 at 1:37 PM

There is nothing like attaching an April Fool photo to this article.

onlineanalyst on April 1, 2013 at 1:33 PM

If only. It’s real, though. She’s being vetted to be ambassador to Japan. Just imagine the stupidity.

Schadenfreude on April 1, 2013 at 1:38 PM

my bad, I guess when I saw Kennedy, my mind read, “It’s a well known fact that alcohol alleviates the effects of retardation.”

rgranger on April 1, 2013 at 1:47 PM

If only. It’s real, though. She’s being vetted to be ambassador to Japan. Just imagine the stupidity.

Schadenfreude on April 1, 2013 at 1:38 PM

Maybe they can take her to a restaurant that serves fugu.

MelonCollie on April 1, 2013 at 1:54 PM

What’s Japanese for “you know”?

Blake on April 1, 2013 at 1:58 PM

why appoint someone with no diplomatic experience to a post that may have to deal with a shooting war if mistakes get made on any side?

Because she likes Kung Pao chicken.

petefrt on April 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM

why appoint someone with no diplomatic experience to a post that may have to deal with a shooting war if mistakes get made on any side?

Look who we elected President.

exhelodrvr on April 1, 2013 at 2:35 PM

petefrt on April 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Oops, make that Shashimi, unless China takes over, of course.

petefrt on April 1, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Pyongyang The Democrat’s governance style is what’s called “military political power-first.” Whereas almost every other country on Earth is “economy-first,” meaning that maintaining a good economy is the top priority, North Korea America’s economy is secondary to the health and power of its military Democrats.

Dexter_Alarius on April 1, 2013 at 2:37 PM

*Sashimi*

[Havin' a hard time here]

petefrt on April 1, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Pak, believed to be in his 70s, is a key ally of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of the isolated state’s ruler Kim Jong-un, and worked for Jang’s wife, Kim’s aunt Kim Kyong-hui.

Pak: Well, I’ll be, a friend of a monkey’s uncle!

Steve Z on April 1, 2013 at 2:40 PM

So Caroline Kennedy can go tell Krazy Kim III that “My daddy was President, just like yours?”

Methinks the greatness of the Kennedy family ended in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Steve Z on April 1, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Ed,

Are you trying to turn us all to stone with your choice of front page pictures???

Gatsu on April 1, 2013 at 1:08 PM

.
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

I believe she looks pretty darn GOOD, for a 55 year old alcoholic.

(but maybe that’s just because I’m 54)

listens2glenn on April 1, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Methinks the greatness of the Kennedy family ended in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Steve Z on April 1, 2013 at 2:43 PM

.
That was certainly one of the things that ended.

There are several other “things”, much more pertinent to the health of the United States, that ended as well … : (

listens2glenn on April 1, 2013 at 3:01 PM

That’s hardly smart power.

Well that’s as “smart” as you’ll get in this administration.

Besides, campaign contributors need to be paid off.

GarandFan on April 1, 2013 at 3:09 PM

As Allahpundit asked in his Green Room post, why appoint someone with no diplomatic experience to a post that may have to deal with a shooting war if mistakes get made on any side?

.
I don’t want to be too hard on the Beaver here….but…..

I hear Johnny Mac sneering ….

YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS, AP !!!!!!

Which in the last 4-5 years of Obama appointments gives you any idea this marxist-raised organizer Azzclown of a President has, or wants, a clue on how to run a logically effective government?

Remember Geithner ? and he was just warming up with that clown. Anyone who thinks this Chicago Thugocrat- protected by the Pravda media- is trying to operate in a professional manner is a fool.
This marxist does not care for honesty or decency.

FlaMurph on April 1, 2013 at 3:23 PM

If she is recovering, I applaud her! Would still like to know her qualifications.

StevC on April 1, 2013 at 4:26 PM

If she is recovering, I applaud her! Would still like to know her qualifications.

StevC on April 1, 2013 at 4:26 PM

.
Qualifications ? ! …..

She’s got the “royal blood of American politics” flowing in her veins. What more does a New England “progressive” need?

listens2glenn on April 1, 2013 at 8:24 PM

First of all, I’m surprised the guy, and his family, is still alive.

It seems that the uncle is in control here. Maybe baby Kim’s rhetoric is hiss attempt to wrest control, via the military, from his uncle.

rbj on April 1, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Nope, lightning rod.

This tells me Mini-Kim is very likely dead serious about crossing the DMZ, as f’ing insane as that would be. He’s counting on everyone assuming that Uncle Pak and the “militarists” are calling the shots.

That way, if his attempt to conquer the South goes south, he has a ready-made scapegoat, already groomed for a show trial;

“Nephew, the imperialists have destroyed the Army. They did not even reach Inchon.”

“No problem, dear uncle. I have a contingency plan.”

“What is it?”

“We will re-create the Chinese show trial of Mao’s Gang of Four.”

“But, what good will that do?”

You get to play Qiang Qing. Guards, seize this traitor!!

As H. Beam Piper observed, crazy does not equal stupid. And if someone thinks that scheming, conniving, and backstabbing are the way to get ahead in life, they are apt to spend a lot of time and effort practicing to become very good at scheming, conniving, and backstabbing.

And such people regard everyone around them, even or especially blood relations, as expendable assets.

I believe Mini-Kim is crazy, and quite possibly delusional. And to quote Piper once more, that can sometimes give him an advantage, rather like a left-handed knife-fighter.

clear ether

eon

eon on April 1, 2013 at 10:24 PM

That’s hardly smart power.

Camelot wasn’t Camelot either.

Herb on April 2, 2013 at 8:41 AM