In a two-part presentation at Brookings on September 5, 2012, Major General Shin Won-sik, director general of the policy planning bureau of the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), provides a comparison of North Korea’s leadership transitions to Kim Jong-il in the 1990s and to Kim Jong-un in 2012. General Shin describes the differing internal and external characteristics that have helped shape these two transitions and outsiders’ perceptions of them. He points out the Kim Jong-un is projecting an image different from that of his father’s.
In Part 2, General Shin compares economic reform in China and Vietnam with developments in North Korea, and considers whether North Korea is undergoing reform or whether the leadership has decided to do so. General Shin notes that economic improvement measures that have been taken in North Korea are similar to early stages of reform in China but that they do not yet equal true reform. He concludes by detailing Chinese and Vietnam reforms in certain sectors and identifies future developments that may indicate substantial reforms in North Korea.