SEOUL – North Koreans who fled the country last year said in a new survey that public support for dictator Kim Jong Un appears solid despite citizens’ frustrations about the poor state of the economy.
The survey suggests grass roots capitalism continues to spread in North Korea to substitute for the failed state distribution system and is likely to continue its uncomfortable coexistence with the nation’s repressive regime.
The Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies each year surveys more than 100 North Koreans who defected in the previous calendar year. It provides firsthand insight into developments in the isolated state, though its researchers say the results alone must not be read as generalized facts due to the small pool of respondents.
The release of the report comes as a military standoff between the Koreas ended Tuesday following a crisis that included artillery strikes and mine blasts.
Mr. Kim, who took power of North Korea in late 2011 and is in his early 30s, has defied outside concerns about inexperience, ruling with authority and purging several senior officials without signs of instability. But his projects for economic development, including agricultural and economic reforms, have yielded few positive results. Since he came to power, he has tightened border control to curb the defector flow, activists say.
Most in the survey blamed the regime for economic hardship, including more than 70 percent who held Mr. Kim as the most responsible.
But combined with respondents who fled from 2010 to 2013, nearly 63 percent of the 656 people that answered said they believe a majority of North Koreans support Mr. Kim. The researchers didn’t provide a year-by-year breakdown.