Friday, January 15, 2010

GeorgiaNorth Korea On My Mind

I'm predicting that events are coming to a head in North Korea, and that it won't be too long before signs of significant change are seen by the outside world--a turning point, if you will.

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 propaganda film/TV studios in each province to "publicize the good conduct of local citizens"
* 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?


조안나 said...

Well, they'd still be better off in a situation like China's than where they are now.

anyway, I'm gona mention it on my blog soon, but I thouht I'd mention a good book I'm reading. It was just released at the end of december and I don't know if it's around in bookstores here, but it should be. It's called "Nothing to Envy" and it follows the lives of North Koreans living in North Korea. (They were all folks who eventually escaped to the south and were avaibable for interview)
I'm halfway done with it and it's the best book I've read in a while (although I haven't read any books in a while so that could be why...)If you see it around, I think you'd like it.

RealityZone said...

I agree, that there will be some sort of reunification. Not like the German model. Rather it will be a much slower process. Imo; The main thing to remember is that N/K has to some how save face. It can not openly admit that their system failed, and their people suffered for their mistakes. I believe this is where China will step in. It will their place to reintroduce N/K to the world. Secondly of course S/K will play a major role. S/K does not want millions of N/Koreans running across the border at one time. And neither does China. So it will be a much slower more orderly internal process.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you that China's new economic policies are only empowering the elites. There is evidence of a growing Chinese middle class, sure the elites are gaining the most, but that's the way things always work. Others are gaining too. Mind you, China's policies are like the industrial revolution, in terms of people's rights and welfare so it's not that I'm promoting everything they're doing.

I'm also not sure what you meant by "changed the scrip", could you clarify that?

Tuttle said...

Jo-Anna: I'll look for it--or you, maybe we can do a swap.

RZ: My impression is that older people here favor reinification, but youngsters fear it. It would have a stabilizing effect, and would shrink job opportunity for a long time before it increased it.

Mo (may I call you Mo?): China definitely has a middle class today--I was trying to say that their economic freedoms are not matched by political and personal ones.

As to changing the scrip, NK "redenominated" the currency starting the beginning of December last year. Individuals were allowed to change out up to 100,000 won at a 100 to 1 rate, and any additional money at a 1000 to 1 rate. The government essentially bankrupted its entire citizenry--it was covered in the news a little. Go to and search on "redenomination".

RealityZone said...

The generational gap also differs on the American military staying in S/K. The younger one wants them out, while the older ones want them to stay. The currency swap was a major move toward the new era. When Bill Clinton went to N/K for the return of the Americans, that was a guise in order to talk about the future of N/K. China will be the main force for introducing them into the new world. American, Japanese, Russian interests will have to also be considered. The industrial development of N/K means a lot of $$$$$ for the globalized Corps.

Anonymous said...

Ah ok, thanks for the clarification. And yes, feel free to call me Mo, that is my nickname.