Three years ago when Kim Jong Un took power, there was doubt an inexperienced, twentysomething could prop up North Korea, let alone lead a country of some 25 million people.
But Kim has very much cemented his control. The country's trade with the rest of the world has never been higher, and its already internationalized economy is expanding. The regime's top brass has been consolidated. Sanctions announced by President Barack Obama last week treads previous territory. And the equivalent of North Korea's one percent remains very much in charge.
"He's stable," says David Kang, an international relations and business professor at the University of Southern California. "I would suspect that now we might be able to really see what policies, foreign and domestic, he wants to take in the next three to five years."
Here's a review of the north's changing economy, and some key reasons why Kim might be feeling good on his 32nd birthday. It's presumably Thursday, though his date of birth and personal details—like many things in North Korea—remain opaque.