By Erik Crouch
Mr. Pak looks damn excited for his new position. Image via El Universal
‘Politician’ is not a particularly accurate word to describe most North Korean bureaucrats; ‘minion of Mr. Kim’ may be better, or perhaps ‘henchman’. Nevertheless, if the DPRK had politicians, Pak Pong-ju would be among them. The former premiere was dumped in 2007 for being “too capitalist“, but now he’s back, appointed by Kim Jong-un as the country’s new prime minister. While Pak is certainly not a democratic reformer (or any political shaker at all), it is believed that he favors Chinese-style economic reforms, which could potentially open up the country.
According to the LA Times:
The reemergence of Pak Pong Ju as premier at an annual spring parliamentary session is seen by analysts as a clear signal that leader Kim Jong Un is moving to back up recent statements vowing to focus on strengthened economic development. The U.N. says two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people face regular food shortages. […]
Pak’s appointment could be a message to the outside world that North Korea wants to calm tension and focus more on economic revitalization, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Dongguk University.
While Pak’s appointment is far from a peace offering, it may be a sign that the DPRK is willing to be less antagonistic on the peninsula. Or maybe Kim Jong-un is just rearranging the deckchairs before he drives his own personal Titanic into the iceberg of nuclear war.