A year after the death of Kim Jong-il and the ascension of his son Kim Jong-un, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea appears to be more stable than many had predicted. The new leader has consolidated his authority and rebalanced power among key institutions, but his reforms have not gone nearly far enough if North Korea is to escape its poverty trap.

A year after the death of Kim Jong-il and the ascension of his son Kim Jong-un, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea appears to be more stable than many had predicted. The new leader has consolidated his authority and rebalanced power among key institutions, but his reforms have not gone nearly far enough if North Korea is to escape its poverty trap.

While the nation remains impoverished as a whole, the capital shows some signs of prosperity, and a successful rocket launch on 12 December further strengthened Kim Jong-un's hand. Yet internal contradictions and increasing isolation could portend trouble. External assistance will be further out of reach if he doubles down on the missile launch by conducting a third nuclear test.

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Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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