Korea: Military Losses Power Struggle In The North

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March 20,2008: In the north, destitution is the rule. South Korean economists have downgraded their estimates of per capita income in North Korea. It's now believed to be under $1,000 a year (it's over $25,000 in the south). Power and food shortages have left many farms unable to work on the Spring planting. As seen from space, North Korea is dark at night, while South Korea is lit up. The newly elected, conservative, president of South Korea has told the north that food aid would no longer be automatically sent. The north would have to be more cooperative in areas of economic development and nuclear disarmament. The new South Korean government further irritated the North Korean officials by increasing radio broadcasts to the north that told people up there about why more free food and fuel was not going to arrive until the North Korean government kept its earlier promises to South Korea. To back up this, South Korea released photos it had taken (with special long range cameras) near the DMZ, clearly showing Red Cross food aid being transferred to the military in 2006 and 2007. The previous South Korean government, following a decade long "sunshine policy" had discussed these photos privately with North Korean officials. There was never any response. So the new South Korean government released the photos. The north has been caught diverting food aid to the military dozens of times since 2003, and has ignored foreign criticism of this. As a result, many nations will not contribute food aid to North Korea any more. The food shortage is so severe this Winter that lower ranking government officials had their food rations cut. This had never happened before.

The North Korean armed forces have lost the power struggle with the "economic reformers" in the government. Many senior generals have been forced to retire in the past few months. The military has been stripped of many of its economic assets, mainly because of mismanagement and corruption. The police have been given the power to arrest military personnel for "economic crimes" and corruption. Meanwhile, the growing use of narcotics in the north (by those getting rich in the black market and along the Chinese border) has resulted in harsher penalties. From now on, anyone caught with more than a quarter pound of narcotics will be executed.

The North Korea military has been declining for over a decade, and the government has apparently concluded that there's no point in putting a lot of money into the military when the economic situation is so dire.

On the Chinese border, North Koreans are so desperate to get out that they are selling themselves into slavery (or, rather, indentured servitude, where they work for free for a period of time to work off the money used to get them past the border guards). North Korean refugees are increasingly suffering from stress related disorders. This is the result of increasing police activity back home.

North Korea has entered into a trade deal with Uganda. North Korea will supply weapons and training for Ugandan police, while the African nation will export food and silk. More importantly, North Korea announced new economic reforms. The government is giving in to Chinese demands that economic reforms, like those that made China rich in the last three decades, be implemented in North Korea. Meanwhile, North Korea continues to delay providing proof that it has halted its nuclear weapons program. The new reforms will take at least a year to show some results, and in the meantime, the food, corruption and public order situations will get worse.

 

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