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North Korea

Is North Korea Moving Toward A Post-Totalitarian Regime?

Recent pictures of Kim Jong-un and his wife attending public events is just one sign that has insiders wondering whether North Korea has started to shift toward a 'post-totalitarian' regime.

Skyline from the Monument to Victorious Fatherland Liberation War
Skyline from the Monument to Victorious Fatherland Liberation War
Philippe Pons

Beyond the eye-catching anecdotal – Kim Jong-un and his wife linking arms while attending a Walt Disney show at the opening ceremony of a theme park – one may seriously begin to ask if North Korea is quietly shifting toward a post-totalitarian regime.

The answer to that question won’t come from Pyongyang: the propaganda media have just swept away all speculations over the country initiating “reforms”, referring to them as “hallucinations” – a statement that is not to be taken literally as the politically loaded word “reform” is prohibited in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Since everything in the DPRK is “perfect”, those can only be called “adjustments.” Yet, it is undeniable that the country is changing. But to what extent?

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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