Korea: Law and Disorder

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May 22, 2007: Law and order are breaking down in the north. Not just petty crime (robbery and burglary), but major heists as well. The Haeju Historical Museum was broken into earlier this month, and a gold Buddha statue, and several other valuable items were stolen. Police are trying to stop these items from getting into China, where collectors may have commissioned the theft. There are major drug smuggling rings, and growing corruption in the security forces.

There is also a lack of births. Women avoid getting pregnant, because of the dismal economic conditions. This has been getting worse since the 1990s, and the birth rate is now below the replacement rate of 2.1 (which is where it was in the early 1990s.) The South Korea rate is even lower, at 1.1, but this is because of prosperity and greater opportunities for women. Currently, the population of the north is 23 million, versus 49 million in the south.

May 21, 2007: The army is being given more senior positions in the North Korea government. For the last year, there have been rumors that the North Korean Communist Party was planning a coup, with Chinese help, to install a government more like the one in China (a market economy run by a Communist dictatorship). The "army party" in North Korea wants to maintain government control of the economy. Although this policy has been disastrous for the economy, it has made for stricter control over the population. The army is all about control, and not very concerned about casualties. In the last decade, economic mismanagement has killed about two million North Koreans (from starvation and disease.)

May 20, 2007: For the first time in over half a century, a North Korean cargo ship entered South Korean waters, and anchored at the southern port of Pusan. This, and the recent resumption of train traffic between north and south, are part of the South Korean policy of helping the north to revive its economy. This will keep the communists in power by preventing a collapse of economy and society in the north.

May 18, 2007: The UN is still not getting donations of food for North Korea, and will have to reduce rations to some 400,000 northerners over the Summer. The UN had been feeding about two million northerners, but reduced donations have resulted in only about 700,000 getting food from outside the country now. The north continues to delay shutting down its nuclear facilities, which it agreed to do in return for more aid. It's this foreign aid that is keeping the government going.

May 17, 2007: For the first time since 1950, a train connection between north and south Korea was used. A test train rolled over the restored rail line. This will make it possible to operate more South Korean businesses in the north, and move relief aid north more quickly and cheaply. However, in carrying out the cross border restoration, South Korean engineers and planners got a good look at the North Korean railroad system, and how decrepit it is. To restore and repair North Koreas railroads would cost $7-10 billion. Yet another reason why many South Koreans do not want to reunite the country. Bringing the north up to southern standards could cost as much as a trillion dollars. The annual GDP of South Korea is $900 billion (North Koreas is under $40 billion), and rebuilding North Korea would mean a doubling of taxes in the south, and a noticeable reduction in living standards.

 

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