Korea: Come The Revolution

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November 20, 2007: In North Korea, the struggle between conservatives (who want a strict communist dictatorship) and reformers (who want something more like China, with economic freedom) continues. The conservatives appear to be winning. That can be seen in recent actions against the public markets (which have only been allowed for a few years, but have been very successful.) Prices are being regulated, and younger (under 39) women are not allowed to sell goods at the markets (younger women are the most successful at this, and set a poor example of communist womanhood). The government is also trying to regulate prices. As a result, much of the market is going underground. That's fine with the secret police, who are increasingly willing to haggle over the size of a bribe. The secret police have also been active along the Chinese border, where illegal television viewing (Chinese signals get across the border) is popular, along with the use of cell phones. All of this provides profitable opportunities for the cops, who get bribes, or seize and resell the illegal electronic devices. The police are also confiscating Chinese made motorcycles, which cost less them half what North Korean made ones do, and are more reliable. Motorcycles are the chief means of transporting trade goods, so the police see these vehicles as an easy way to get rich. The increasing corruption of the police by the bribes and the market economy worries the leadership greatly. There is also growing market activity among soldiers, who are bartering or selling whatever they can, in order to buy food or consumer goods. Most North Koreans are now aware that South Koreans live a better life, and as more cheap Chinese CD movie players get around, more North Koreans see visual proof of what is happening down south. North Koreans would rather try and get a little of that good life, than launch a revolution. But few in the North Korean leadership understand that, and see economic freedom as the beginning of a political revolution. But whenever they crack down on the market economy, the economic situation gets worse. The current influx of free fuel and food, in return for shutting down their nuclear weapons program, allows the North Korean government to crack down on the market economy. But that's only a temporary respite from economic trends that are crushing the communist police state up north. Too many in the North Korean leadership haven't got a clue what's going on. Self-delusion has been turned into a state religion, and there are lots of believers on the government payroll. Many military leaders simply want to avoid going the way (unemployment) of their East European counterparts two decades ago. A minority of the North Korean leadership does comprehend what is happening in China (a communist police state with free markets) and South Korea (a wealthy democracy), but are having a hard time educating their fellow bureaucrats, and convincing everyone to make needed changes.

 

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