Pyongyang, North Korea
The people of North Korea celebrate today the 40th anniversary of their national liberation from Japanese occupation with giant parades and demonstrations. Forty years later, President Kim Il Sung's autocratic regime appears to be firmly in control and assured of a smooth succession. Continuation of Mr. Kim's own brand of communism also appears certain.
Indications are that President Kim's son, Kim Jong Il, has taken over most party and state functions recently and that he is determined to pursue the revolutionary policy of the last four decades with equal rigidity.
Thus, little fundamental change is foreseen for North Korea, at least in the near future. The 73-year-old Kim Il Sung has ruled the nation with his personalized and iron-handed regime for 37 years -- longer than any other elected official in power today.
But in recent months there have been some signs of minor change in this nation of 20 million people. These include:
Granting entry permits to foreign (some Western) businessmen, academicians, and journalists.
Attempting to attract foreign (including Western) capital by passing a law to promote joint ventures.
Following a more active foreign policy, particlarly toward the third world.
Engaging in a dialogue with the South and making renewed peace overtures to the United States. (Korea was divided in 1945 by the US and Soviet armies shortly after Japanese occupying forces were driven out.)
But these changes are not taken as signals of a new course in policy for the North Korean regime.
Diplomatic observers here are keenly trying to find out what motives are behind these developments.
They think the efforts might partly be the result of North Korean envy of the South's industrial and technological boom and of the North's desire to modernize its economy and improve living standards -- now that it has reached a certain degree of modernization.