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Korea: Northern Troops Are Farming, Not Training
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June 13, 2008: Many, if not most, North Korean army units have cancelled the majority of their training exercises this year, and shifted to growing food. This further reduces their combat capabilities. The North Korean government continues to resist carrying out an agreement to shut down its nuclear weapons program in return for economic aid.

 

Local Communist Party officials are cancelling recent restrictions on free market activities, because allowing entrepreneurs to operate helps reduce starvation. Starvation may not make North Koreans free, but it does increase corruption and popular unrest.

 

June 12, 2008:  Opposition political parties in South Korea are seeking to force the newly elected conservative government out of power via massive street demonstrations. The leftist opposition parties are using popular opposition to free trade (which actually favors South Korea more than it hurts), especially the importation of cheaper U.S. beef (said to contain mad-cow disease, although no South Korean has ever suffered from this via American meat products.) The leftists have controlled the educational system for decades, and have created a mythical new history for post-World War II history, in which North Korea is an innocent victim of U.S. imperialism (and it gets worse…) North Korea encourages this myth, just as East Germany worked with leftist political parties in West Germany during the Cold War to do the same thing. When the two Germanys were united in the early 1990s, the truth came out. But that lesson was never accepted by South Korean leftists. Meanwhile, the United States, having its own economic problems, is not willing to cut the South Koreans any slack when it comes to selling beef to South Korean customers. Free trade works both ways, and Americans get angry when U.S. jobs are lost because trading partners refuse to allow American products. This has long been a problem with east Asian trading partners, which frequently plead "special conditions." But this gambit has been used for decades and not longer gains much sympathy in the U.S.

 

June 4, 2008:  Alarmed at the reports of widespread starvation in the north, South Korea has taken the initiative and asked North Korea if it would accept 50,000 tons of corn. Previously, the South Koreans had resolved to not send any food unless the North Koreans asked for it, but the northerners like to play this negotiating game where they deny there is any problem. They did this a decade ago, as two million North Koreans died of starvation. Most South Koreans do not want a repeat of that. The U.S. is in the process of delivering 500,000 tons of food to North Korea.

 

May 31, 2008:  North Korea fired three missiles, to protest the refusal of South Korea and its allies to supply free oil and food. North Korea is also upset over religious and North Korean refugee groups sending balloons across the DMZ (with portable radios, bibles, food, etc). North Korea does not like the new, more conservative South Korean government either, which is less eager to give in to North Korean demands. The missiles used were decades old Styx anti-ship missiles. This 1950s design was produced in large quantities by North Korea before the Cold War ended, and there are over a hundred of these elderly missiles that could be fired before they become too old to be used. Which is what the North Koreans do periodically.

 

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