Korea: Death By A Thousand Cuts

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August 29,2008:  North Korea refuses to allow verification of its dismantling of its nuclear weapons program, and wants to be taken off the U.S. terrorism list immediately. The U.S. refuses to take North Korea off the list until there is verification. So North Korea has ceased its dismantling of its nuclear weapons program. North Korea has always been a hard bargainer, often to the point where they lost more than they could possibly gain. This makes no sense, but that's the way North Korea operates. North Korea wants off the terror list so they can move forward with their counterfeit money and illegal drug operations. These activities are much more profitable when the government has complete access to the international banking system. Being on the U.S. terrorist list hampers banking access.

Radios that can receive foreign broadcasts, and MP3 players, are increasingly popular in the north. Some radio broadcasts are passed around as MP3 files, but mostly the MP3 players are mainly used to hear foreign pop music. There is a lot more money in North Korea, and most of it is illegal. There are a growing number of criminal gangs. The larger and wealthier gangs can go into business with government officials. This is often the case when it involves illegal drugs, like methamphetamine ("speed" or "ice").  The spreading corruption means that, eventually, the government will lose control of the country, piece by piece. Or, as the local says goes, "death by a thousand cuts."

August 27, 2008: U.S. and South Korean military commanders are openly stating their belief that any North Korean invasion would fail. In the past, there was always some hesitation about being this confident. But apparently the readiness and capabilities of the North Korean armed forces have declined so much that even the professionals doubt the north could get very far if they went to war.

August 24, 2008: North Korea has developed a new food (soybean noodles) which they claim are highly effective at making starving people feel less hungry. Soybeans have never been a staple dish in the north. But these days, after over a decade of food shortages, hunger has become a hot topic, and tips on how to eat anything are big news, even in the state controlled press.

August 22, 2008: South Korean audits of aid given to North Korea continue to reveal many cases of theft and diversion of aid to other projects.

August 17, 2008: Russia and North Korea are adjusting their border along the Tumen river. This was last done 18 years ago, and has to be done every decade or so because the river keeps changing its channel, and moving border markers. North Koreans also use the Tumen river bridges to escape into Russia (where life as an illegal migrant is possible, because of a labor shortage). But North Korea has increased the security along the Russian border, and the cost of bribing the North Korean guards to get across has now risen past $700 per person.

August 9, 2008: China has laid claim to Suyan Rock, which the Chinese call Ieo island. Two years ago, the Chinese had agreed not to challenge South Korean claims, which are supported by the international community. This is actually a submerged (nearly five meters under water) rock in the East China sea that is 150 kilometers from South Korea and 245 kilometers from China. In 1987, South Korea built a warning beacon on the rock, which is a navigation hazard to large ships.

August 5, 2008:   South Korean tourism in the north dropped 60 percent in July. To make matter worse, North Korea is forcing South Korean firms to remove their staff from North Korea (which has never been an easy place to run a business in). Overall trade between the north and south has dipped nearly two percent versus last year.

August 4, 2008: Heavy rains in the north, over the past few days, have caused severe damage to crops, meaning that there will be even larger food shortages next year.

 

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