During the succession from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un, North Korea witnessed a revival of party institutions. However, the most distinctive feature of the transition was a succession of purges that replaced powerful figures from the Kim Jong Il era with new loyalists. The system remains personalist, but with strong reliance on the military and security apparatus.
Following North Korea's second nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council tightened sanctions. However, North Korea has tilted its relations toward partners uninterested in such measures. Since 2005, it has retreated from economic reform, most obviously in the 2009 confiscatory currency reform. These developments raise doubts about North Korea's interest in engagement.
In 2008, North-South relations worsened, food shortages re-emerged, and the Six Party process yielded an interim agreement. The U.S. dropped North Korea from the terrorism list but nuclear verification issues remained contentious. Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered a stroke in August, casting uncertainty over all aspects of politics and policy.
The year 2007 witnessed a gradual rapprochement between North Korea and the world, reflecting changes both in the country's external environment and domestic political economy. Key markers were the resumption of the Six-Party Talks and the second North-South summit. Whether these developments will endure depends largely on North Korean intentions.