North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is under pressure from all sides as he tries to cement his rule, running into walls erected by both military hardliners and the spoilt elite.
Timid economic reforms in June last year immediately came up against stiff resistance from hardline Workers Party and military officials, a source said Monday.
Kim last year ordered academics to come up with proposals to take up his set of small market-friendly policies. Institutes duly submitted reports calling for private ownership of farms, businesses and factories, citing the success of China.
But when the party received the reports, it demanded that those responsible for the proposals should be severely punished for ideological deviance. Kim was forced to call them "reactionaries" and order them to be "stamped out," which according to the source led to some of the hapless academics having to undergo indoctrination or other punishment.
In April, Kim raised eyebrows by ordering the children of diplomats home from their studies, but this time he ran into opposition from the more cosmopolitan-minded elite and had to climb down five months later.