Extra! Korea

March 27, 2010

Timely, excellent article by B.R. Myers on North Korea

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 4:37 am

While looking for updates on the sinking of a South Korean vessel, I stumbled upon a timely article by B.R. Myers. It’s excellent. (Normally, I try not to block-quote huge swathes of an article, or try to break them up into pieces interspersed with my commentary, but in this case, I won’t, or rather, can’t.)

They [North Koreans] have known since the 1990s that their living standard is much lower than South Korea’s. The gap was explained away with reference to the sacrifices needed to build up the military. What the North Koreans are only now realizing, however—and this is more important—is that their brethren in the “Yankee colony” have no desire to live under Kim Jong Il. In 2007, after all, they elected the pro-American candidate to the South Korean presidency. Why, then, should the northerners go on sacrificing in order to liberate people who don’t want to be liberated? Unable to answer this question, the regime in desperation has resorted to the most reckless propaganda campaign in its history.

[ snip ]

Such misery prevailed in the mid-1990s too, but at least then the regime admitted an economic crisis, even as it mostly blamed the Yankees. Now it talks of a country transforming itself from one year to the next. No dictatorship can afford to lie so stupidly to its people, or to raise public expectations that will be dashed in a matter of months.

Unlike the East Germany of old, North Korea lacks the high walls, incorruptible border guards and surveillance technology needed to keep an entire populace in lockdown. Reports of demonstrations against the currency reform may have been exaggerated, but the belated decision to increase the amount of exchangeable currency shows there must have been unrest of some sort. It also indicates that the regime lacks the will to crush it in Tiananmen-style fashion. Kim Jong Il must either find new ways to inspire his people or watch ever more of them cross into China.

[ snip ]

Since the East Bloc crumbled away in the early 1990s, North Korea has shown its true ideological colors ever more clearly. Last year it even deleted the word communism from the national constitution, elevating “military first” socialism to the country’s guiding principle instead. At the same time it has made ever more extensive use of kamikaze terms and slogans (“Let us become human bombs in defense of the leader”) taken almost verbatim from Pacific War propaganda. The official media routinely mock the leaders of the old East Bloc for giving up “without firing a shot,” and vow that “there can be no world without [North] Korea.”

The possibility of a violent, potentially apocalyptic regime collapse in North Korea within the decade is one that all countries with an interest in the region should keep in mind. They should also be more conscious of the internal ideological contradictions that make the country’s long-term survival impossible. If North Korea must collapse anyway, it makes no sense for China to prolong things; the leadership will only go out with a bigger bang when the day finally comes. As for Americans, we should focus our contingency planning on a worst-case nuclear scenario instead of fretting about Beijing’s role on a post-Kim peninsula. A Chinese occupation of North Korea should be the least of our worries.

I wonder how South Korea would feel about “a Chinese occupation of North Korea”? Bye bye to dreams of a reunified Korea.


  1. Another excellent article from Mr. Meyers. As for your final musing… after a period of nationalistic pulling of hair, beating of breast and gnashing of teeth…probably a quiet sigh of relief that the Chinese are dealing with the problem that they themselves saved and sustained over 60 years. Let’s face it, most south Koreans don’t give a s*** and hope the northern half stays where they are…out of sight, out of mind and far away from their bank accounts.

    Comment by Douglas — March 28, 2010 @ 2:18 am

  2. […] B.R. Myers has described North Korea’s kamikaze-like rhetoric. […]

    Pingback by These aren’t Monty Python’s “suicide squads” « Extra! Korea — March 30, 2010 @ 8:10 am

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