North Korea tests another nuclear weapon; Obama wags finger at them

north korea nuclearBy now it is commonly known that the reclusive and autocratic North Korean regime has conducted a nuclear weapon’s test. purportedly much more successful than one conducted some years ago during the sunshine policy of the former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun who very recently committed suicide. This move is a clear thumb in the eye to President Obama’s new approach to foreign policy, and true to form he responded by letting the North Koreans know that they’ve been very naughty boys and girls and issuing a stern warning… something along the lines of “You do not want me to pull this car over!!”

Of course, I don’t blame Obama, and after all Joe bigmouth Biden did warn us that Obama would be tested and that it wouldn’t look like he would know what he was doing.

“Watch. We’re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he’s going to need help . . . to stand with him. Because it’s not going to be apparent initially; it’s not going to be apparent that we’re right.”

It’s a scary thing when Joe Biden is the most reliable figure in the administration.

Seriously though, North Korea has been an enigmatic puzzle for years. It is an autocratic Stalinist regime saturated in a cult of personality. Unlike most socialist states however, the leadership of North Korea really functions more like a heritable monarchy than anything else. And just like in monarchies of old, without a clear line of succession among the eligible heirs (Kim Jong-Il’s sons) there is much speculation about who the next leader of North Korea will be. More immediately though is the rabid questioning about just what is meant by the North’s pursuit of nuclear weapons technology.

Most see the nuclear weapons tests as leverage to get the US to agree to bilateral talks, something that North Korea has desired for a long time.

I’m not a foreign affairs expert, but I believe that though the North Korean dictator may be brutal, he is not entirely irrational. Further, the effects collapse of the Soviet Union and the rapid growth of their only ally, China, have not been lost on the closed state. Despite famine like conditions in recent years and a stagnating economy, for several decades following the Korean War, North Korea actually outpaced the south in economic growth and standard of living. The last two decades have been devastating for the North Korean economy, and yet the demands of maintaining the world’s fifth largest military while possessing a 3rd world level of national income has been extremely challenging to say the least.

I believe that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have less to do with foreign policy directly, and have a great deal to do with the internal workings of the Korean political and economic system. It is little known that following the devastating famines of the 1990’s and the concurrent collapse of large scale economic aid from the Soviets, the north embarked on some small economic reform. Such reforms included the development of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in conjunction with South Korea. Kaesong-305This joint venture is a major source of much needed hard currency for the North Korean regime, and its closure would hit the North Korean economy badly. These reforms have clearly stalled along with the North Korean economy, and the inclusion of North Korea in Bush’s Axis of Evil didn’t help.

Maintaining a large military and keeping the military leaders who are the base of his power happy, is a key aim of Kim Jong-Il. By acquiring a viable nuclear deterrent, and possibly a nuclear export business (God forbid!!) Kim will be able to redirect from resources away from the maintenance of a large conventional military and toward other parts of the economy. Though Korea seems threatening, I do not believe that Kim would launch what would inevitably be a suicidal attack on any of its neighbors, nor do I believe that China would permit that level of aggression, which would injure China’s interests as well. If however, the North Koreans are able to shift their resources, it may be possible to jumpstart the economy with Chinese style reforms that would radically reshape the diplomatic landscape in northeast Asia. I do not believe that Kim’s interest in self preservation is ultimately served by keeping his people at subsistence levels and living in the equivalent of a large scale prison camp. Kim is interested in the preservation of his own power, and like any politician, he has constituencies who interests he must consider.

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11 Responses to North Korea tests another nuclear weapon; Obama wags finger at them

  1. Not to plug my own blog on here but for a quick guide to North Korea you might want to read this.

    or you can read these books.

    Under Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin and Aquariums of Pyongyang by Chol-hwan Kang

    I have read both, and the second is the North Korean version of The Gulag Archipelago, while the first is the about 8000 pages or WTF. But it you really want to understand North Korea you need to read them. the thing people need to understand about North Korea is that for propaganda reasons they have to keep the populace in a constant state of preparing for war so they have an excuse of whyt the government must deprive the people. If they think a war can break out at any minute so they must always be ready they are less likely to get angry over the government taking all the food and keeping them in poverty. this doesn’t always work that well but it’s all they really have. Read the books, it’s hard to break it all down here without writing over 4,000 words.

    • No problem with the blog plug… I’ve been rather interested in studying up a bit on the situation in North Korea (I have lots of Korean friends, etc.) and recently read up on this guy who apparently escaped from a prison camp into which he was born as part of the whole whacked out 3 generations punishment crap.

      I’ve read a bit about Stalin, and the North Korean situation is similar in its crappiness and cult of personality, but different in its adoption of monarchical socialism, which I think fits the social culture of Korea better in some ways. In any event when I get a chance I might pick those books and read them.

    • afrocity says:


  2. The guy that was in the camp was Kang, he was in Yoduk and wrote the one book I talked about. He did not “escape” the camp, he was let out after ten years, and ecaped North Korea to the south. He went into Yoduk as a kid because of the 3 generation thing, his grandfather, the one they were really after was sent to another camp, one that was much worse, since in Yoduk at least half the prisoners had a small chance of leaving alive. The camp his Grandfather went to was one no one left alive.

    As of now I think North Korea is just yelling for propaganda reasons and nothing more, I hope I’m right.

    • I hope you’re right too. I would hate to see war break out, but I’d be delighted to see Kim’s regime crash.

      I think we’re talking about two different people though in the “escape from camp” thing. I’m talking about this guy:

  3. Yep, two different people. I’ll have to look for that guys book.

    I don’t think there is going to be a war. I think it’s more of a diversion while Kim tries to deal with the succession issue, since unlike his father he never bothered to groom one of his children for the job, and doesn’t look like he even thought about it until he got sick last year. I think the plan is to keep people off balance so they can’t get themselves involved in the process and possibly ruin Kim’s plans.

    • I don’t think there will be a war either, since it would be suicidal for Kim’s regime and he keeps more power by constantly threatening war than actually executing it.

      The guy in the video has a very compelling and depressing story

  4. Yeah he does. I think I’m going to have to steal that video from you.

  5. afrocity says:

    Time for a new post elderj

  6. Aren’t you worried about Rusty Limpballs influence on the right ? He said he hopes America fails.So if there is a war, Rush get’s his wish.

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