The lifestyle police are out and about in
North Korea. Karaoke bars and video parlors (where you can watch DVDs on large
TV screens) are being shut down. Along the Chinese border, police are searching
homes and businesses looking for cell phones (which can get a signal from
towers just across the border) and smuggled goods (particularly South Korean
DVDs and music CDs). The increasingly powerful criminal gangs are fighting
back, and more dead bodies are showing up. So the government is trying to rid
the cities of the criminal element. Anyone who misbehaves is being forced to
live in the country (where it's much easier to starve to death). It's all about
economic reforms that have created more wealth in the north. There is a debate
in the North Korean government about how to handle economic growth. China
presents itself as a model (economic freedom within a communist dictatorship).
But many North Korean leaders are not sure their people could handle the truth,
about the decades of lies about how much better North Korea was doing
economically, than the rest of the world.
Too late for that. Most North Koreans now know, but are too busy just
trying to survive to think about a revolution. But the government knows their
history. Revolution comes as the economy improves. Thus a substantial
improvement in the economy could bring the revolution North Korea's leaders
have long feared. What do do? Close Karaoke bars.
July 11, 2007: North Korea has invited UN
IAEA inspectors to return and verify that their nuclear weapons research
reactor was shut down. This is being done in exchange for shipments of fuel oil
and food, both of which are in short supply up north. South Korea has already sent the first
shipments north, with more to come once the nuclear weapons program in the
north is shut down. Unemployment in the north is about ten times what it is in
the south (3.4 percent). Most North Koreans now know they are screwed, and that
life is much better in neighboring China and South Korea.
July 6, 2007:
North Korea has apparently completed testing of a new short range
ballistic missile (the KN02). Based on Russian 1980s design (the SS21), the new
missile has a range of about a hundred kilometers and carries a half ton
warhead. The guidance system is much improved over what the North Koreans have
been using. The SS21 is the Russian replacement for the SCUD, which was based
on German World War II designs (the first combat ballistic missile, the V2).
The SCUD used liquid fuel, which was dangerous and expensive to handle, and
time consuming to load into the missile before launch. Most North Korean
missiles still use liquid fuel, making it difficult to hide preparations for a
major operation, like an invasion of South Korea. The new solid fuel missiles
are mainly for export, as North Korea needs the cash more than it needs better
weapons for invading the south.
July 3, 2007:
Japan's crackdown on pro-North Koreans in Japan, and economic ties to
North Korea in general, has forced North Korea to turn to China for most of its
imports. For decades, Japan had been the major supplier of key goods,
especially manufactured items. The quality of Chinese goods has increased a lot
in the last decade, but the difference is still noticeable.