North Korea: What is Kim trying to do?

I just happened across this article and found it simply amazing.

For those of you who don’t want to go read it, basically China has been sending aid (food and fuel) to North Korea on trains. Well, China sent a train full of supplies to North Korea and North Korea now refuses to give the train back. The North Koreans are claiming that the train the supplies came on is part of the aid package and will not give the train back to China. North Korea sent the train crew back across the border and kept the train, apparently because the North Korean rail system is falling apart.

What makes this even more interesting is that China has been increasing their investment in NK by a huge amount (percentage wise) in recent years. Chinese investment in NK went from 1.1 million in 2003 to 85 or 90 million this year.

So now we have NK doing the missle tests which are pissing off a large number of people and NK stealing a train from China, which appears to be one of NKs biggest supporters.

It seems to me that Kim came to the conclusion that with their nuclear weapons and missles that he can now do whatever he wants. This is a problem because the NK economy is pathetic and with China halting the aid it is going to put more pressure on the Korean population. At some point either Kim can a) give up the train and missles and play nice to get more aid b) keep the train and possibly piss the Chinese off to the point where they do not restart the aid which would cause big problems for the average Korean, possibly leading to some sort of rebellion c) start a war with someone to steal what they cannot make due to their wacked economic policies.

So, what is Kim trying to do? Is this another bluff to get more stuff? What is the most likely Chinese response?

Note, I don’t know a heck of a lot about NK, other than that Kim is a nutball.


Train of not-a-lot-of-forethought, hmmm?

Well, assuming the story is true, maybe he’s hoping China will ransom the train with more aid. At this point, a quiet assassination passed off as a coronary is our best hope.

I’m surprised that a rebellion hasn’t already occurred. How can that many people tolerate so much shit for so long is beyond me. Must be some kind of massive battered wife syndrome.

Hard to figure. I can see three obvious alternatives:

  1. Kin is achieving the results he wants. That is he has impoverished his nation and isolated it from the the outside for his own reasons.

  2. Kim is failing at his goals. All we can say for sure is his present state is not desirable for him, and so he will keep working to do whatever it is he wants to do.

  3. Some combination of the two.

Take your pick.

I suspect, given how long the North Koreans have been isolated from the rest of the world, that many have no idea that things are better elsewhere.

The penalty for showing anything other than fanatical loyalty to the current regime is quite steep.

Collective insanity is the only thing I can think. There have been various strategic analyses I have read about NK’s behaviour, particularly from the very interesting StratFor website, but they seem largely to be assuming some rhyme or reason to the NK leadership’s behaviour. A quick perusal of North Korea’s tragi-comic one and only website is to me indicative of a top-down divorce from that which we in the rest of the world feel is ‘normality’.

I’ve met a few people who’ve been there, and they said this appears to be so: in an incredible climate of fear, the nutjobs running the show have created an establishment that is terrified of the top, and of their colleagues - the Cultural Revolution or Stalin’s purges writ large. The government is in total power (recent minor demonstrations have been met with, reportedly, mass executions) and the people are kept starving and totally ignorant of the world outside, near-religiously committed to the leadership.

IMO, once you stop trying to analyze North Korea in our terms, these actions become much more explicable: they’re completely nuts.

Collective, or just Kim’s?

I think jjimm makes a valid point:

The situation in North Korea bears an eerie resemblance to Stalinist Russia (or perhaps any of the three societies in 1984): a semi-divine Leader coupled with absolute ignorance of conditions elsewhere. In such a situation the Leader’s delusions become the delusions of the society; attempting a rational analysis is an exercise in futility.

:mad: You just implied Big Brother is **semi-**divine!

Expect a visit from the Thought Police!

North Korea’s website appears to be down. I guess I should have expected that. :biggrin:

I’ll have to plead insanity. After all, I distinctly remember that The Leader was once Kim Il Sung, but he died—which means that either The Leader is not truly divine, or I have a defective memory.

Room one-oh-what?

Because they don’t have a choice? You seem to think the people could just ‘rise up’ if they wanted. But it’s not so easy. You can’t organize when the secret police are everywhere. You can’t buld up any sort of wealth that you could use to buy allegiance or pay for weapons or supplies. The people are uneducated.

History is full of stories of entire societies that were run to destruction by totalitarian leaders. When you can disarm the people, terrorize them into submission, and keep them impoverished, they becomes literally helpless.

The people in the Soviet Union never rose up against their masters for decades, despite (or because of) incredible brutality by the government and horrible mismanagement of the economy. Tens of millions died in forced famines or famines brought about through inept government, and just submitted to their fate.

In Iraq, several groups tried to rise up against Saddam and were brutally crushed. The Shiites were slaughtered by the tens of thousands after the 1991 uprising, and stayed quiet after that despite Saddam doing things like draining the marshes and driving an entire culture off their land.

When dictatorships fall, they either crumble from within the ruling cadre, like the Soviet Union did, or they are overthrown by outsiide powers, like Germany, Japan, and Iraq. Spontaneous uprisings by the people rarely work against a truly brutal government, and when they do it usually happens in wealthier countries where the dictatorship is only partially in control and the people have significant resources at their disposal.

Heh heh. There’s not many countries that can have their entire online infrastructure destroyed by just one link :slight_smile:

What Kim probably wants, above all else, is respect.

Unfortunately, he appears to have taken Eric Cartman as his one and only role model.

That’s a bad combination.

I’m surprised the Chinese haven’t taken him out yet. They could get away with it without a single word being said by any other country. What can they possibly gain by continuing to prop up this regime? It’s becoming a global embarassment and costing them standing in the international commnity, not to mention all that aid flushed down the tubes. I don’t think anyone would object to even a pony nuke going off in downtown Pyongyang. Anything to get rid of that nutball.

Welllll, it’s complicated.

China and North Korea go way back. Kim Jong Il’s father, Kim Il Sung got his start in China running raids from North China into Korea in a guerilla band under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. China helped out NK in the Korean war, quite a bit as well and also provided aid willingly to North Korea in the latter’s rise during the early years. China has always enjoyed an older brother (or hyung, as the North Koreans call it) relationship with its wayward sibling.

This is hardly the first bone of contention between the two countries. In particular, NK has bashed China for opening up its economy to what NK considers to be “degenerate” western free trade influences. NK has also exploited tensions between the Soviets and China for its own interests in the form of trade and promises of military support. The hyung relationship between China and NK is strained at best, but it is still a hyung relationship, and in the Confucian driven ideology of East Asia, such bonds are not easily forgotten or pushed aside, even in the interests of saving face or preserving stability.

That said, I have no idea how China will react to this, either. When it comes to anything having to do with NK, all bets are off.

So Confucianism still has influence even on professed Communists. Interesting.

Relevant to that, we recently had this discussion in a CS thread on “What Book, Movie, or TV show most accurately predicted the future?”:

My WAG: If you somehow got a chance to know Kim Jong Il, you would find he is nothing like O’Brien, neither a fiend nor a megalomaniac. He is simply an ordinary prick, warped by having been born to superior opportunities.

Oh yes. The northern half of the peninsula has been communist for 61 years. It’s been confucian for over 3,000 years. No way is confucian thought going to be expelled from North Korea or any other Asian country anytime soon.

In fact, NK leadership has inserted quite a bit of confucian thought into their brand of communist ideology (The dynastic succession of Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il, for example).

So what? How can any society have any cultural “tradition” that is, in practical effect, any older than its oldest living member? Why would it make any practical difference whether such a tradition is 3,000 years old or 100 years old? What’s keeping the Confucian tradition alive?