By Jerry Guo
North Korea's botched currency revaluation last November caused near rioting in a society where even slight criticism can lead to the gulag. Now news that Kim Jong Il may have executed his top finance official in early March has some pundits wondering if the despot has finally gone soft. But don't believe it. Rather than a bow to public opinion, Kim's scapegoating of Pak Nam Gi, a loyal bureaucrat, seems more like a brutal move to solidify the hereditary rule of Kim Inc.
That's because, according to internal party propaganda, the failed currency reform--which knocked two zeroes off the won, sparking massive inflation--was actually the work of 27-year-old Kim Jong Un, the Dear Leader's likely successor. Blaming and executing Pak is a way for dad to wipe a major blemish off Jong Un's short career, says Marcus Noland, deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. To help smooth his son's ascent, the elder Kim has also declared Kim Jong Un's birthday a national holiday and forbidden parents from giving children his name. Between these shenanigans and the currency fiasco, it seems that life under Kim Jong Un promises to be no less harsh than under his father.