Would victory be the worse thing ever for North Korea's leadership

In the unlikely event North Korea successfully overruns Seoul, wouldn’t support for the regime collapse once the common soldier finds out how much more prosperious the South is.

By the time Seoul falls, it won’t be looking that prosperous.

Besides, prosperity doesn’t stop invading soldiers - it usually just encourages them to loot more.

But the difference is so huge, how would it be explained away?

Some writer once said that the biggest mystery about 1945 is that the majority of Red Army had seen all the washing machines in Germany, was let go home and no political disturbance followed. Based on that example, it is not a sure thing, the reflex of a totalitarian citizen - to always shut up when in doubt - might overrun anything else. On the other hand, the North Korean troops are rumoured to be developing corruption and extortion just to stay eating. In that kind of situation, anything might break the discipline.

The North Korean government would explain that a wizard did it. The people of North Korea have gotten used to accepting anything their government tells them.

IIRC, there was a recent thread on NK in which it came up that Communism takes a distant second to intense racism/xenophobia as a central feature of present day NK culture. The prosperity of the outside world won’t convince people who think they are born better and purer than everyone else that there’s something wrong with their system; just look at American history. The higher prosperity of the pre-Civil-War North compared to the South didn’t convince them that slavery was a bad idea.

This was an assertion; it’s truth is undetermined. Both play a strong role, and economically they still practice Marxist/Leninist central planning in fact if not in name. And unfortunately, we don’t get to ask the average citizen what he thinks. We know he is told he’s part of a better and purer race. Whether this really affects the Korean attitude all that much remains to be seen, given that South Korean already holds this belief informally and manages to get by.

Problematic as well. The South definitely did know about the North’s greater propserity, and that gnawed at them in a way they were only half prepared to admit. That half-acknowledged sense of inferiority was one of the causes of the war and many attempts to develop and increase agricultural productivity even more.

And contrariwise, knowledge of greater success in tiny West Berlin (with all its disadvtanages) helped undermine German Communism. This was the case throughout all the Eastern Bloc. What we do have to show implies that North Koreans are very much aware life outside North Korea is better, but not how much better. It simply doesn’t matter, since they can’t act on it.

I’ve just been reading that book, and I’m not sure that I buy his whole thesis either, He makes come good points, but I’m not sure he isnt overstating their significance.

He makes a much stronger case in my view, with on the suggestion that political theory is a bit of a Red Herring when it comes to North Korea.

The idea that the place is running a personality cult first, and was never really invested in socalism or even the juche thing, does tie pretty well with the other accounts that I’ve read.

It seems to be pretty clear that there is now enough traffic over the border into China, that at least some North Korean’s know a bit about the world beyond their border now.

The problem for me, is that they dont seem to know exactly how representative the people are getting out are of the rest of the population, a lot of them seem to have been relatively well off before they got out, and most seem to come from a few specific geographical locations.

I’ve also never come across anything that seems to have any information at all about whats happening within the army, and that’s probably the most important piece of the whole picture.

My guess is that if North Korea were to overrun the South, there would be no way that the people of North Korea would be allowed to travel to the South. There would probably be a Chinese wall (heh) built to strictly separate travel, communication, and media between the North and the South on some pretext or another.

Those Southies are all capitalist thieves, that’s how! The Hyundai was invented in NK, the Southies stole the whole effing factory! :mad:

I doubt it. For one thing it would be similar to when the Soviets went through eastern Europe and Germany…they would be taking (a.k.a. stealing, or ‘liberating with extreme prejudice’) everything that wasn’t bolted down, and even some of the bolted down stuff if they could pry it up. They would essentially loot everything and move it north, so materially (for a short time) the folks up north would be doing better than they are now. I’m guessing the south would be treated similarly to South Vietnam when the north finally managed to gain control, though obviously North Korea is much more extreme than North Vietnam was. Still, it’s probably a similar model, coupled with the Soviet example during WWII. They would also be depopulating the south (also along the lines of Vietnam and the Soviets), but to a greater extent…so there wouldn’t be a lot of SKs around to dispute whatever assertions the NK leadership decided to spout off about.

What it would do to the north in the long run, and what sort of equilibrium they might eventually reach (assuming they ever do…Vietnam certainly did) is another question, but in the short term I don’t think everything would fly apart.

Of course, I can’t see any way in hell the North Koreans ever could take South Korea…not unless there was some sort of world wide disaster and NK was the only viable state left on the planet somehow. At best the NKs could hurt or even cripple SK, but doing so would finally push them off the cliff and into free fall.


The OP is talking about soldiers. NK cannot conquer and continue to rule SL without lots of those heading south.

I’m not sure that knowledge about the way of life in the South would lead to a collapse of the regime. Wasn’t it pretty much common knowledge in the USSR about the differences in standard of living in the West long before cracks in the regime began to show?

Well, it was and it wasn’t. Certainly there was a lot of underground knowledge of how much better things were in the west than in the Soviet Union, but there was also a constant bombardment of propaganda saying how that was only for the upper classes, and that the rest of Western society was crushed under the boot of Capitalism (with lots of running dogs and such mixed in…I always loved running dogs, so graceful and sleek and…well, never mind). The propaganda was so pervasive that no matter how much people KNEW they were being bullshitted it still managed to seep in. I went to Russia several times in the 80’s and knew quite a few folks who had managed to get out of it (and out of Eastern Europe, especially folks from Poland and East Germany), and it was still quite a shock and disconnect when they go to The West (mostly to Western Europe). Even for those who knew, absolutely KNEW that things were better here and that the propaganda was BS, it was a shock.

Heck, I have a friend who was from Chechnya, and he got out in the early 2000’s, and it was STILL a shock to him how different things are in the US to how he grew up. It’s been years and sometimes you can see it in his eyes…he still finds a lot of it hard to assimilate too, even today.


Ah – I missed that. I still wouldn’t be surprised if there were restrictions on how soldiers who had seen the South would be able to communicate with their families or go back to their homes in the North.

There has been recent reporting that word of the vast difference between the quality of life in North Korea and the rest of the modern world is now becoming known to the average North Korean. It seems that the somewhat porous PRC-DPRK border is allowing more North Koreans to sneak across and see how China is modernizing, as well as get information about how the rest of the world lives. Even Kim Jong Il admitted in the North Korean newspapers in 2010 that the government hasn’t lived up to the promises of Kim Il Sung on a basic standard of living.

My experience with cold-war visitors (Russia, East Germany, etc.) was that the Grocery store really did them in. Even now I will sometimes recognize the look on the face of a new immigrant who walks in to the local Giant or Wegmans food stores.

The utter shock at seeing all that food laid out waiting for anyone who wants to buy it. People who had never seen an orange up close standing next to three stacks of different varieties and wondering how it’s possible that no proof of rank or loyalty is required to buy it. I once saw a lady just crying as she looked at the egg display. It’s just a guess of course, but I’m pretty sure that’s what was going on with her.

But your question was about how the NK Government would counter this? Easy. The fat, lazy self-absorbed consumption-oriented “others” had clearly been putting their own greedy satisfaction over service to the state. Every luxury would be held up as proof of the soft, lazy, corrupt, character of people brought up to think of self before state. The complete lack of ideals in their daily lives would be so sad, so pathetic, that they filled their mouths with food in lieu of feeding their spirits on loyalty and commitment to profound goals of the State. . .

But to the Red army, the Germans were an rich imperialist nation, them being more developed at the time than the rapidly developing but still poor Soviets. The KPLA soldiers would see their Korean ‘compatriots’ being much better off than them.

Propped up by those imperialistic Americans and Japanese.

For an example that might be easier to see first-hand, consider the Amish, who have several communities in the US. They are certainly well aware that others around them have cars and computers, but they don’t feel that they need them to be prosperous. It’s even more convincing with them, because there is nothing that legally prevents them from hopping on the train to NYC and a high-powered life.

FWIW I read in a book (can’t remember the name, this was back in college) that back when Kim Il Sung was in charge he would pay off debts to the USSR by sending in thousands of North Koreans to work as slaves doing things like mining and logging in soviet territory. Once the slaves saw how much better life was in the USSR they started committing crimes in the hopes of being sent to soviet prisons since being in a soviet prison was preferable to living in North Korea. The program was ended because it got embarrassing for NK to keep having that happen.

I’ve also heard stories that NK refugees are impressed by the standard of living and level of technology they see in the poor, rural parts of China (so the worst parts of the worst parts of a developing nation are impressive to them).

All in all, yeah, the system would collapse IMO. Supposedly North Koreans are a lot more aware now than they were 10-15 years ago about how much better the standards of living are overseas because of massive underground VHS, DVD and cell phone smuggling operations in the country. Supposedly lots of South Korean soap opera VHS tapes get smuggled in, and people see the standard of living in South Korea that way.

Yeah but the ability to criticize your government w/o having your kids and grandkids sent to a slave labor camp is going to be deeply appealing to North koreans, since that is how the rest of the world operates.

What I have heard that would really bring down the NK ideology is if the people found out the life of luxury that Kim Jong Il and Kim Il sung lived. Most North Koreans live worse than dogs in China while Kim Jong Il spent millions on luxury cars and champagne. When they find out about that, they will be pissed. The government probably spent enough on high end luxury items to buy enough corn and wheat to avoid any famine deaths in the 90s.

What is funny is how fat Kim Jong Un is. I also remember reading a passage in a book on the subject where a group of South Koreans were touring North Korea and one of the South Koreans asked what she thought was an innocent question but that got her detained by NK police for a few days. She asked ‘why is Kim Jong Il the only fat person in North Korea?’ Things like that, or the morbidly obese Kim Jong Un presiding over a nation in famine aren’t going to be lost on people when they start to contemplate how much better the leadership lives than the common citizens.