North will it end?

This thread about the North Korean airline got me on a kick of reading and learning about North Korea, something I really didn’t know very much about until now. I mean, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t really realize how bad. Seems like it is far worse than the Soviet Union ever was even under the worst of the communist dictators.

I don’t understand what the endgame is going to be for this country. It certainly doesn’t seem as though anyone in the world is trying to bring down the regime. Since they have nuclear weapons, everyone is afraid of them. Since they are totally isolated, their government doesn’t seem vulnerable to economic pressure. Since they are completely cut off from the outside world, there appears to be no chance that their population will be exposed to revolutionary ideas and try to somehow revolt. Everyone there is conditioned to worship their idiotic leader.

“People’s Democratic Republic.” What a fucking joke. But the situation seems so hopeless. There is no exposure to any kind of philosophy other than the one forced on the people by the government. Even in Soviet Russia, people at least had a chance of taking in other ideologies and meeting other kinds of people since Russia is incredibly ethnicly diverse and there were all sorts of people around who remembered the days before Communism or who came from other countries. But in North Korea, the only people are Koreans, and that world is the only world they know.

How will this situation ever be resolved?

Underground tunnels filled with zombies, sealed forever to feast on each other…

WTF…I’m asking a serious question!

From what little I’ve heard, Kim Jong Il is having difficulty getting the generals to accept Kim Jong Un as his successor. I’d give odds on some generals shooting both Kims and then approaching the South to get the aid flowing again. Likely result: something like Burma.

Good or bad, a shit load of refugees is the only known

Argent, Yog was referring to World War Z by that Brooks guy. In it, North Korea was affected by the worldwide zombie epidemic and reacted by completely shutting down and the whole population disappeared. The thought was they were all down in bomb shelters underground and zombified.

If North Korea is smart, some Gorbachev-like general will overthrow Jong-Il and Jong Un, trash the personality cult and dismantle the nuclear (biological, chemical etc) program in exchange for aid. Open the borders, get some trade flowing (NK can offer cheap labor if nothing else), let the world in and hope their neighbors are in a forgiving mood. I expect a lot of apologies along the lines of “We knew they were crazy but they had guns to our heads so what were we supposed to do?”

If they aren’t so smart they will lash out at South Korea. A conventional war is one they are sure to lose but in the few weeks that they survive they will do all kinds of damage and will probably kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of civilians. At which point the US and South Korea will bomb the place flat and occupy the piles of rubble for the next 50-100 years. However, aside from dedicated commando units (and perhaps not even them) I don’t expect much NK resistance after the fact. Food, water and some basic human dignity will overcome anyone’s will to fight for a country that won’t exist after a war.


Has anyone ever airdropped leaflets over north Korea? I saw a North Korean textbook once and their depictions of outsiders they give school children nearly broke my heart.

I’m somewhat of a hippy at heart, I would love to airdrop heartfelt letters over pyongyang saying that we all love them and that we are not enemies of the people.

South Koreans sometimes float balloons over the border with messages and small radios so people can pick up SK broadcasts.

Yep. NK just threatened military action in response to a recent SK leaflet drop IIRC, and again IIRC, NK citizens who actually touch the leaflets are imprisoned along with their extended families.

I don’t understand how a country like this is allowed to exist in this day and age. I can kind of understand the world looking the other way at things like Darfur and Zimbabwe and the like, with the justification that it’s just a big anarchic mess and, implicitly though never stated, that Africa is just a big shithole that’s not worth saving. But North Korea? A nation right on the border of a productive first-world country? A country that’s rigidly dominated by a megolomaniac dictator with nuclear weapons?

What’s driving the NK military to maintain status quo?

My prediction is that the nation will work out the kinks, thus enabling it to achieve its latent greatness. Neither the political system nor the philosophical underpinnings are problematic; rather, what we have is the problem of less-than-stellar implementation by an erratic government.

Ultimately, I hope that North Korea will keep the socialism and dump the ridiculous de-facto monarchy. The nation needs new leadership; something along the Communist Party of China would be ideal. Vietnam is also a good model. The one mistake the nation must NOT make is an embrace of dead-end Western capitalism and representative voting.

Apparently the beginning of the loss of North Korea will be because of lightning.

Dead-end Western capitalism and representative voting? Oh, you mean like what’s working in South Korea. So well, in fact, that South Korea fed the North for awhile.

Yes, I think that political ideologies are just superficial abstract concepts when compared to the real facts on the ground - starvation, disease, death. People don’t have enough to eat, at a time when mankind’s advances in agriculture and technology make this totally inexcusable. The people must be fed.

I think two factors are important. Firstly, the days of information blackout are almost certainly over. There have been a number of sources who indicated that South Korean, Chinese, and American media are all available (in small quantities) in the North, with the inevitable result that the comparative wealth of South Korea and even China may be common knowledge. Combine this with various civil society changes (like the growth of Christianity there —though the numbers for that are presumably inflated — or the increasing numbers of illegal markets) and we have a population whose cooperation with the government comes through massive coercion and the lack of other sources of leadership, not some sort of ideological commitment. Secondly, the elites seem to be deeply unhappy these days. The military elites know perfectly well that South Korea has the better military, and North Korea is simply to poor to keep its toys up to date (or even necessarily in working order). The civilian elites would much rather spend their time in China or wherever else (remember the eldest Kim child?) — again, the country is just to poor to keep them at the level of comfort they want.

What does this mean for the future? Change, I suppose. The current succession isn’t going all that well, as people have mentioned. I think this will mean that any of three things will happen. One, the military could launch a coup upon Kim Jong-Il’s death. If this happens, we’ll probably see a junta engaging in some limited liberalization to try to imitate China. Some things (especially economic actions) will be legalized, but it will still be a brutally repressive regime, and the liberalization will probably fail (because they aren’t China). Two, the military could keep whichever Kim comes next around, but demand economic reforms so they can keep their toys better up-to-date. The outcome would look much like choice #1. Three, there could be another massive famine, possibly in the middle of the inevitable succession crisis (as happened in the 1990’s famine), with the government collapsing and the country turning into anarchy (as happened in many places in the 1990’s famine). The military will probably come out as the controlling power (because there’s no domestic actor capable of opposing them), and… it will end up looking a lot like the other two options, except with different national symbols and more dead people along the way.

IOW, expect actual change on the ground to be fairly slow.

I will say, I don’t think it looks much like Burma, nor will it in the future. The Burmese government, for all the people it kills or oppresses, is a pathetic little thing that can’t even kill its resident democrats and has had to effectively cede large swaths of territory to ethnic separatist groups. Neither of those opposing forces exist in North Korea to destabilize things, since the country is extremely ethnically homogeneous, and someone like Aung San Suu Kyi would be executed within ten minutes around there.

Anyway, it’s a very long .02, but that's my .02.

Your last question answers your first. There’s no way to execute regime change on NK, even if the option were palatable to SK, because SK would be a smoking ruin–or at least Seoul would, and likely by purely conventional means.

NK has always had a large army positioned mostly on the border with SK. SK has a lot more to lose in a war, so placating the Kims has always seemed like a better option.

Although there are a large number of ethnic groups in the traditional boundaries of Russia (and even more within the former Soviet Union), the vast majority of the population are Eastern Slavic people; the only other ethnic group that had a significant impact upon Soviet-era culture were the Russian Jews, who were obviously marginalized. Furthermore, the general lack of travel and communication within the Soviet Union ensured that there was little mixing of peoples or ideas. Even though late 19th and early 20th century Russia was a hotbed of seditious activity (socialists, anarchists, and various competing factions of Communists, the most notable of which were the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks) it never had any practiced tradition of democracy. Most of the corrupting influence in the Soviet Union came from outside.

However, I’d have to agree that North Korea is the most socially, politically, and economically isolated nation today, and probably moreso than nearly nation in history; the only examples I can think of that were close was Japan of the Edo Period or post-1960 Albania under Enver Hoxha. There is relatively little direct information about the political and economic conditions in North Korea, but Kim seems to have maintained control less by any force of personality than by vigorously eliminating anyone who might have enough influence. There is enough organization to keep the nation isolated, but without Kim to give direction, it is quite possible that his successors may have little choice other than to make more sincere overtures toward reunification. (The Koreas, although both holding seats in the United Nations, were never officially severed and each governments claims sovereignty over the entire peninsula.) Although it is easy to imagine some kind of horrific conflict leading up to reunification, it should be pointed out that the similarly dire predictions, often made by noted authorities, were made regarding the reunification of Germany. Instead, the collapse of the DDR, fall of the Berlin Wall, and absorption of East Germany into the West occurred with less conflict than a British soccer match.


I’m almost certain that the generals will take over. In realizing their best national interests, they will exploit their vast natural resources and begin selling North Korean desalinated tears in an under-the-table deal with U.S. President Mandabar Pepsico. Kim Il-Yum mascot, and anthropomorphic sea lion, Thirsty Pete, will inaugurate the World Water War with the slogan Tears taste sweeter just as Earth’s most powerful nations dust off their Gross National Happiness indexes.