by Ray Fleming

SCANNING the global horizon for any new sign of peace and good will in the world one came across the unlikely figure of Kim Jung-un, leader of North Korea and son and grandson of former leaders of one of the world's most secure and oppressive dynasties. The bulky Mr Kim who succeeded his father just one year ago appeared on TV and radio on New Year's Day to deliver what appeared to be a personal policy statement of the kind his grandfather favoured.

Mr Kim, now 28, was educated in Switzerland and in various small ways has shown that he may have a spirit of independence that has long been lacking in North Korea. The country is so impenetrable that its observers seize on the smallest indications of change, even in Mr Kim's dress style and haircut.

Although it is difficult to judge his views on internal economic, military and social matters he appeared to suggest that the time for reconciliation with South Korea might be approaching. “My New Year greetings also go to our compatriots in the South....The past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war.” Park Geun-hye, recently elected as South Korea's first woman president, will have been surprised by this unexpected approach; it will be interesting to see how, if at all, she responds to it.


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