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Tags: Kim | NKorea | collapse | regime

N. Korea Collapse Speculation Increases

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 08:48 PM EDT

SEOUL—North Korea's authoritarian regime appears to be weakening and the prospect of its collapse is being discussed anew by longtime observers, though there is still a broad debate about when that could happen.

The 16-year-old government of dictator Kim Jong Il for years defied outsiders' predictions of collapse, surviving even amid debilitating poverty, hunger and external hostility. It has kept North Korea's 24 million citizens isolated and docile by instilling in them fear of extreme punishment, and by controlling information, travel and trade.

But new pressures are bringing fresh doubts about the regime's ability to keep going. Those include signs that Mr. Kim is in poor health, and indications that the population is increasingly hungry and restive following the government's failure to deliver basic necessities after it tried to shut down market activities four months ago. Even the information blockade is crumbling. A nascent cellphone industry is making it possible for more North Koreans to talk—and to report on difficulties and unrest—to outsiders, and more DVDs of TV shows and CDs of music from free and prosperous South Korea are smuggled into the country.

The rising prospect of collapse is chiefly expressed by a range of professors, military experts and think-tank analysts who scrutinize Pyongyang's power elite. Those observers have pointed to weaknesses in the regime in the past, particularly after the death of Mr. Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, in 1994, but they seemed to have settled into a belief in the regime's stability. This month, however, the chatter began to change.

"It's like a taboo that's been broken," said Daniel Pinkston, an analyst at the Seoul office of International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based group that reports on conflict areas.

To read full Wall Street Journal story — Go Here Now.

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 08:48 PM
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