Korea: Northerners Flee Into The Hills

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January 21, 2008: North Korea missed its end of year deadline to shut down its nuclear weapons reactor. A new deadline, for the end of February, has been set. South Korea is all right with this, believing that North Korean military forces are declining in capability, and will be incapable of trashing South Korea within two or three years. By that time, the south believes it will be able to bribe the north into giving up all their nuclear weapons. North Korea opened the year by promising to improve living conditions and strengthen the military in the new year. That won't happen. The corruption is a mess. Actually, there are several separate economies in North Korea. At the top there is leader Kim Jong Il, who has his own banks and representatives in government departments that handle money. This crew, often referred to as the "royal bankers", can take whatever they want. This is increasingly leaving the other "banks" broke. The Communist Party has its own pot of goodies (companies and money making capabilities, some of them criminal), as does the military, and so does each province. The central government is cracking down on some of the provinces that have been too successful, too greedy and too criminal about how they raise money. It's become popular for North Koreas to compare their situation to past medieval ones, where the poor peasants were pushed around by feuding nobles.

While South Korea has currency reserves of $262 billion, while North Korea has less than one percent of that. Only five nations on the planet have larger reserves (China, Japan, Russia, Taiwan and India). South Korea has used that money to good effect. For example, the military now has a new Korea Joint Command Control System (KJCCS), which provides the sort of instant electronic communication and tracking that U.S. forces have been using for the last five years. North Korea has a much less effective military communications system.

South Korea is buying anti-missile missiles for its Aegis radar equipped warships. These missiles can shoot down any North Korea ballistic missiles. The Aegis anti-missile system has undergone several successful tests over the last few years. Japanese and American Aegis warships also patrol off the Korean coast. North Korea calls all the missile defense activity, "aggression."

Conditions in North Korea are becoming chaotic. The secret police are becoming more brutal in their attempt to bring local (corrupt) officials back under the control of the central government. Public executions of such officials have been reported, as well as people fleeing into the hills to escape the chaos and random violence. Most provinces, factories and collective farms remain stable, but the corruption and decline of discipline continues to spread. It's worst along the Chinese border, where there are more economic opportunities (most of them illegal) just across the frontier. But the spreading chaos is showing up all over. No one can predict when, or if, the entire country will collapse into chaos, but the lack of order is being seen in more and more parts of North Korea.

 

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