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Leadership: North Korea and the Growing Culture of Corruption
   
November 8, 2006: North Korea is having a serious problem with police, troops and border guards stationed near China. It's all about corruption, and a breakdown of order along the border. For several years now, there has been a problem with North Korean troops going into China to steal, and sometimes rob people as well, and then scoot across the border with their loot. As long as you tip the border guard, getting through is no problem.

In some cases, the stealing takes place on the North Korean side, with the goods then taken to China for sale. Construction materials are a favorite item, before, or after, they are built into something. Another popular target for thieves is metal of any kind, as China has become a major worldwide magnet for scrap. However, this has become a major problem in North Korea, where the thieves take power transmission lines. This is easy to do, as there is no power for many hours of the day, or several days at a time. Even the North Korean heroin production, a valuable source of foreign currency, gets plundered. This is notable, because heroin and counterfeiting (mostly U.S. hundred dollar bills) are closely guarded projects. But not closely guarded enough, for not only is there a growing drug addiction problem in North Korea, but those phony hundred dollar bills are used as currency (at a discount, as everyone knows they are fake.) 

If you know what to look for, you can sometimes see charcoal powered North Korean trucks hauling booty across the border. The charcoal powered trucks, something not used in the West since World War II, give off some smoke, as their engine burns charcoal to produce a flammable gas to power the engine. These vehicles don't move very fast, either, but are common in North Korea (for both military and civilian use). 

The North Korean government has been trying to crack down on the corruption along the border, but many of "enforcers" sent north from the capital are either threatened, or bribed, into ineffectiveness. Military and police discipline along the border is not completely out of control. There's an understanding that "foreign spies" (usually Chinese) will still be hunted down (and sometimes held for an unofficial ransom). Unofficial (those who have not bribed the cops) crooks are also at risk, as the outlaw troops don't want any civilian competition. 

China is alarmed at this collapse of discipline in North Korea, if only because of the crimes committed by North Korean troops in China. But there's also the prospect of even more North Korean outlaws coming into China, if the North Korean government completely collapses. To try and deal with that, China has been sending thousands of additional troops and police to the border areas every month. This has been going on for at least two years. The Chinese government is less concerned about North Korean missiles and nukes, than they are with rogue North Korea police and soldiers.