Of course, I forecast the downfall of China's communist regime back in 1989 while glued to CNN during the Tienanmen Uprising (Google for it, smirk). So, I could be wrong. On the other hand, I correctly predicted Mark Helms's rise to power as fifth grade Hall Monitor at Chipley Elementary in 1972, so my bona fides as a political prognosticator are venerable if not 100% accurate.
DPRK (which is international code for North Korea) has done several things lately to indicate that a storm is a-brewin' in Pyongyang:
* Kim Jong-il admitted that much is lacking in terms of people's living standards (an unheard of confession of failure from the Dear Leader)
* the government changed the scrip, thereby eliminating most personal wealth in a country where eating a rat makes for a good day
* they then backed off due to a Cha-Bagger Revolt and rejiggered the devaluation scheme (still executed a few folks, though)
* renewed calls for nuclear disarmament talks, though these are rightly ignored by the Obama administration--especially since South Korea would be left out of any talks
* anointed third son Kim Jong-un as dictator-in-training (with a day-long birthday celebration), thereby pissing off China, which believes evil dictators should be appointed from within the party bureaucracy
* reported a bunch of made-up celebrations in South Korea to convince North Koreans that the South really wants reunification
* announced plans to create
* following the currency devaluation, there was a "run" on low-quality rice in the Chinese provinces near DPRK, resulting in shortages and even starvation
The Daily NK is a great website for North Korea news and analysis; Slate has a story today about the idea of renewed talks; the NYT ran a nuanced story about NK refugees earlier this week; finally, here is a VOA report about North Korea's passive-aggressive approach to diplomacy.
Back in '89, when I thought China was going to change, I was actually correct--it's just that China didn't change the way we thought it would. Tienanmen was followed by a new openness, market openness--China today has capitalist markets in a communist social paradigm. (Americans who shop at WalMart perpetuate the Chinese system.) Chinese can have cell phones, but Big Brother will listen in on what they say (Hmmm, not so different from the USA, come to think of it!)
Following this model is the worst thing that could happen to North Korea, if you ask me. I mean, other than the status quo. Limited capitalism that merely enriches and empowers the elites without intellectual and transactional freedom for the people is a sham. Or, in other words, modern China.
I don't know what will happen, but I am confident that upon Kim Jong-il's demise (if not before), North Korea wll need a fair and unbiased arbiter to marshall the Hermit Kingdom into the Modern Age. This is where the West, working with the South, will need to step in: wonder if Mark Helms is available?