For those searching for signs of reform in North Korea, Kim Jong Un has been a godsend. Women on North Korean state TV wore high heels and miniskirts while he sat in the audience. Disney characters, the cultural export of a country North Korea has long demonized, danced onstage. The not-yet-30-year-old Kim, since taking over from father in December 2011, frolicked with school children and was photographed on a rollercoaster with a British diplomat, signaling a level of international openness never seen under the stern Kim Jong Il. He found a pretty wife, Ri Sol Ju, whom the New York Times equated with Britain's Kate Middleton. In a sign of changing times, the new first lady has even been photographed with her husband -- significant because Kim Jong Il was never seen with his spouse -- sporting a Christian Dior purse worth more than the annual wage of a North Korean worker.
Such inane details, combined with the young Kim's years of Swiss schooling where he wolfed down pizza and idolized NBA stars, have caused optimists to declare once again that North Korea is ready to open up to the outside world.