A survey of North Koreans who fled the country in 2014 reveals strong support for the Kim regime, although the economy is a source of frustration.

Although the economic situation is dire in North Korea, it does not appear to be having any tangible effect on approval for Kim Jong-un‘s rule. Low-level capitalism reportedly continues to develop due to the failures of the state distribution system, with the two coexisting without official recognition, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Defectors Tell Of Solid Support For Kim Jong-un In North Korea

Annual survey released as military confrontation ends

The annual survey is carried out by the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, and includes over 100 North Koreans who managed to escape the country in the previous year. Although it provides genuine insight into living conditions under the secretive regime, its researchers acknowledge that the small number of participants means that its results cannot be taken as general facts.

Relations between the two neighbors deteriorated into a military standoff over the past few weeks, and the possibility of renewed conflict was only ended this Tuesday. North Korea and South Korea exchanged artillery strikes and mines were detonated in the latest round of saber rattling.

Kim Jong-un came to power in late 2011, and at times has appeared to struggle to gain the respect of high-ranking officials due to his age and inexperience. Kim is in his early 30s, and has attempted to assert his authority through frequent purges of officials, including the alleged execution of his own uncle.

Majority of citizens support regime despite economic woes

The North Korea economy has declined under Kim, not helped by a devastating drought which severely impacted economic production. Attempted defections are common, and Kim has strengthened border controls in response.

Despite that fact, a steady stream of North Koreans do make it out of the country. The majority of those surveyed blamed the Kim regime for economic problems in North Korea, and over 70% held Kim Jong-un personally responsible.

63% of 656 defectors who fled from 2010-2014 believe that most North Koreans continue to support Kim, although no year-on-year breakdown was provided by researchers.

Kim retains tight control of information which enters and leaves North Korea, but a number of visitors have taken to Instagram to post images of daily life inside the country.