Korea: Northern Bureaucrats Brace for Civil War

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June 19, 2007: North Korea is openly upset about the continuing military build-up in South Korea. There, new weapons and equipment are constantly being introduced. South Korean troops practice regularly with live ammo and fuel for their vehicles. North Korean troops have little of this, and become less effective each year. North Korean generals no longer believe they have much chance of quickly conquering South Korea in a war, even if chemical weapons are used. This is because chemical weapons, based on historical experienced, slow down the attackers as well. North Korea is particularly concerned about American smart bombs, and the speed with which American air force and navy warplanes could move to South Korea, and clobber North Korean forces. While the American army is heavily involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force and Navy is not, and is available to concentrate on any North Korean military adventures.

June 18, 2007: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is apparently not well, which may be partly the result of turmoil in the North Korean leadership. The economy is undergoing a transition to a market based system, similar to what has worked so well in China. However, this has upset the power structure in North Korea. Some officials are getting rich, while others are losing money and status. One sign of this is the increasing number of awards and Communist Party specialty items (given only to senior officials over the years) showing up on the black market. There are collectors of this stuff out there, some of them South Koreans. North Korean officials who have lost out in the new economy, and are slipping into poverty, are selling stuff off. Those who are involved in more legitimate businesses (especially manufacturing) are seen as winners, as they might survive the fall of the current government. But those making lots of money in smuggling and the drug trade are nervous. An increasing number of North Korean officials see China as the model for their future. But for those not positioned to make any money in the new economy, especially those in the military and security services, there is a desire to keep things as they are. No matter what. So far, this dispute has been mainly verbal, but it could erupt in gunfire if the heavily armed "losers" feel cornered and faced with ruin.

June 14, 2007: North Korea has gotten the $25 million in profits from criminal activities, which was frozen in a Macao, China bank, freed and moved to a Russian bank. But North Korea has not got access to the international banking system restored, and the North Koreans are not happy with this. Drug dealing and counterfeit currency are major earners for the North Koreans, and without access to the international banking system, expenses are higher.

June 11, 2007: The CIA believes the North Korean population increased about 188,000 in the last year, to about 23.3 million. There has been little real growth in the population over the last fifteen years, because of famine, deaths in prison camps, fewer births and illegal migration to China. Increased foreign food aid has reduced the starvation and malnutrition, and the North Koreans are expected to shut down their nuclear reactor this Summer, in order to get the food aid moving again.

June 10, 2007: European nations that have been using contract workers from North Korea, are replacing them with workers from other Asian nations, because of UN sanctions against North Korea, and the continuing crises over North Korean missile and nuclear weapons programs. Most of the pay these North Koreans got went to the government, so this is a big deal for the North Korean leadership.

June 9, 2007: A U.S. investigation revealed how North Korea diverted over five million dollars of UN aid money, to the private use of North Korean officials. The UN has often ignored the theft of aid by North Korean officials, in order to avoid having aid programs shut down completely. The North Korean officials were, as corrupt bureaucrats do the world over, collecting a "tax" on aid coming into the country.

 

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