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Monday, March 11, 2013

What is North Korea up to?

I know little enough of foreign policy not to hazard a guess on my own about their recent animosity and threats of nuclear war.

What I know about North Korea I know from documentaries. The people there are starving, stunted, malnourished, die young, risk immediate retribution upon their families if they escape and death themselves if they are caught (and China sends refugees back to North Korea though not South Korea, and I'm not sure about Russia). They have little fuel or clothing or food or electricity- all shipments from the capital for their supposed "socialism" ended decades ago. The military raids the already destitute country for supplies since they are inadequately supplied themselves. Military service is expected for young adults and most people want to because they eat better when they serve.

North Korea has concentration camps for people who offend the regime in some way - anything from escaped family to saying something less than praise of the regime. People in these camps work to provide the few exports of the country and try to catch rats and mice to avoid starving to death on their meager rations.

North Korea have annual ceremonies involving many children of the capital working together in concert - think of Beijing's Olympics Opening Ceremonies and you'll have the idea, but with all children. Everyone has a picture of the Dear Leader, and everyone in the capital is assigned an apartment which may have electricity and running water, but not usually television or adequate medical care. They do all have speakers in their apartments broadcasting state-run media which is impossible to turn off or even turn down. Even in the capital people don't have much in the way of luxuries except for those close to the Leader. Yet they all love their Leader with a fierce loyalty. No doubt they are either brainwashed or smart enough to pretend to be. Such movies as exist in North Korea are always about its supremacy and superiority over other countries and how the people are better off and happier there than anywhere else in the world.

For foreigners visiting, they may expect to be chaperoned by specific guides who make sure that they only see approved places and do not take pictures. Any foreign aid granted has traditionally used to supply the elite and not the poor starving masses. What little we know about North Korea's interior is from brave medical missions who secretly filmed conditions in the country without detection, and from a few North Korean people who have successfully escaped to South Korea.

It is rare that documentaries can move me to tears, but I have felt a deep and powerless desperation for the people trapped in North Korea - nothing, I'm sure to their own desperation for those aware of their plight. If there is ever evidence that life isn't fair, this is it!

What can be done about North Korea is either very little or very ineffective. Humanitarian aid doesn't reach those who need it. The UN does nothing about it, essentially. North Korea does what it feels like doing. Sanctions haven't been particularly effective until now, possibly.

Back to my title question. American Spectator has answered it for me.
Bellicose rhetoric and actions from North Korea are as unusual as the sunrise. The pattern has been consistent. The Norks would resort to threats of war and weapons tests whenever their elites felt threatened either in their security or their lifestyles.
Violation of past agreements has resulted only in more threats of “isolation” and successive economic sanctions that haven’t done anything to slow or stop their development of nuclear weapons and missiles. But in the past they have waited for one dose to settle before launching another. Now, they’re in some sort of rush that is uncharacteristic and, for that reason, more dangerous.
The frantic pace at which the latest Kim is peddling their bellicosity is something new. It probably indicates that the generals behind Kim are concluding that their warlike rhetoric and nuclear and missile tests aren’t working any longer. Their confidence that they can continue to push us around may be eroding. 
But their bluster hasn’t relieved them of the economic sanctions that have affected the standard of living of their elites. The more they see themselves on the losing end, the more they take truly threatening actions such as the November 2009 missile test that resulted in an ICBM passing over Japan.
For further information and predictions and even explanations of Obama's disastrous foreign policy, please use the link.

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