Korea: No Reason To Change

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February 7, 2008: North Korea defends its refusal to shut down all its nuclear weapons work, by accusing the United States of not taking them off the list of international terrorists. The North Koreans want off the terrorist list so that they can more easily resume many money raising activities (most of them illegal). The North Koreans have traditionally negotiated like this, much to the frustration of those they are negotiating with. It gets even more strange. This year, the North Koreans have put off their annual begging for free fertilizer (from South Korea) for the Spring plantings. This is believed to be yet another negotiating tactic, even though it threatens the timely planting of this year's crops in a nation that continues to suffer from food shortages.

North Korea has opened up a web site for the sale of North Korean products. However, the site, www.dprk-economy.com/en/Shop/index.php, is difficult to reach. When you do get there, clicking on any of the items offered for sale (including SUVs), results in a request for your contact information, and little else. It's all very North Korean.

In North Korea, the military is making itself very unpopular with more military drills this Winter. These annual drills involve calling up thousands of reserve troops in each province, and having them march into the countryside and stay there for a day or more. This year, the troops are camping out longer. It's been a very cold Winter, and food prices have been up. The reservists have to bring their own food for these trips, and the higher prices make it a hardship. To make matters worse, some provincial military authorities have declared an evacuation drill for many civilians. This involves civilians from designated areas gathering up whatever they can carry, and marching off to spend the night in the countryside. Not a pleasant way to spend a Winter night. But it's a cheap way to carry out some military training, and terrorize the population at the same time. This approach has worked for over half a century, and the North Korean communists see no reason to change.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea was established as a place for South Korean firms to establish factories, using North Korean workers. There are currently about 100,000 workers there, and this will rise to 700,000 by 2012, when construction is complete. Workers make about $60 a month, which is higher than most other jobs available. People are willing to pay bribes of up to $200 to get jobs at Kaesong. Not just for the higher pay, but for the ability to buy or steal products made there, and sell them on the local black market. So far, the North Korean government has not made a serious effort to curb the corruption at Kaesong. Apparently too many people are making too much money there.

The North Korean government has ordered its border guards to carry out more detailed inspections of people going to China after May this year, because of the large number of foreigners coming into China for the 2008 Olympics. The North Korean government does not want its citizens to be polluted by these foreigners, so the border guards have been told to be on the lookout for people trying to bring in foreign goods, as well the usual forbidden stuff like cell phones.

 

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