At long last, North Korea preparing economic reforms?

Since July, various news reports in South Korea have quoted anonymous sources within the North as saying that Mr. Kim planned to give factories and collective farms incentives aimed at bolstering productivity. The state will let farmers keep 30 percent of their harvests, the reports said. Factories will choose what to produce and how to market products, splitting profit with the state and paying their own workers.

The changes, tested as a pilot project in selected farms and factories, will eventually spread to the rest of the country and replace the North’s dysfunctional state ration system, these reports said…

Within collective farms, four to six workers will be allowed to work as a unit to encourage competition, said the Seoul bureau of Radio Free Asia, based in Washington, as well as Web sites in Seoul, which use sources within the North to collect news. Meanwhile, Jang Song-thaek, Mr. Kim’s uncle and key policy adviser, visited China last month and won Beijing’s commitment to help North Korea build two free economic zones on its border.