Almost every night, seeking to gather opinion from a country where opinion is often punishable, Kim Eun Ho calls North Korea. He talks mostly to people in Hoeryong city in Hamgyong-bukto province, and the conversations never last long. Hoeryong city employs 14 men who monitor the region's phone conversations, Kim believes, and typically they can tap a call within two or three minutes. Kim says he knows this because, as a North Korean police officer before he defected in December 2008, he sometimes monitored the conversations.Okay, I have serious problems with that kind of methodology (not a random representative sample by a long shot), but that's pretty much all we've got to work with, yeah? (And by the way, that's an interesting tidbit about how many people tap the phone lines in Hoeryong and how long it takes them to do it.)
But these days, with Pyongyang preparing for a Workers' Party convention that could trumpet the rise of leader Kim Jong Il's youngest son, Kim Eun Ho and other defectors who speak regularly to North Koreans hear plenty of opinions reflecting what he described as a broad sentiment against hereditary succession.
"Of 10 people I talk to," he said, "all 10 have a problem with Kim Jong Eun taking over."
Just as North Koreans know little about their potential future leader, the rest of the world knows almost nothing about North Korean opinions. Recent academic research, based on surveys with defectors, suggests that North Koreans are growing frustrated with a government that allowed widespread starvation in the early 1990s and orchestrated brutal currency reform in 2009 that was designed to wipe out the private markets that enable most residents to feed themselves.
Anyway, some cited in the article are hopeful KJU (written in the WaPo as Kim Jong Eun) will be North Korea's Gorbachev:
There are some who think that Kim Jong Eun will take power and gradually lead North Korea to Soviet-style reforms. Some defectors say that even though the younger Kim is largely unknown, they hope he'll allow for a free economy after his father dies.Of course, I'm holding out for him to be North Korea's Deng (a must-read link). Anyway, if we actually see protests like we did over the Great Currency Obliteration of 2009 (see also here), then we know Brilliant Comrade is in trouble.