Silliness in the Hermit Kingdom Part II

A commentator on my last post about North Korea (I’d read it first) asked me what I though the consequences of North Korea’s collapse would be, well I have several theories for that but first a rehash of some of yesterdays post.

“In my opinion while he may be able to hold on to power for at least some time the economic conditions in North Korea and the slow influx of information from the outside world will eventually damage the current structure of North Korea to the point where it will eventually have to change to some extent.  The thee options of this change are, first violently in coup that will maintain power but cast off the Juche ideology since it is too closely tied in with the Kim’s but not necessarily Communism.  Second by a slow progression towards a China like economic and political form, or third a total collapse such as in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, that has had different effects depending on the country. Granted we could have a mixture of the first two but however it turns out it’s going to get interesting.”

I’m not going to go into the possible policies of Kim Jong-un since it is too soon for that and some of what he might do could get covered here since we are talking about the possible collapse of North Korea and the aftermath.

In the event that military or party members take control in a coup as the country collapses they will either try to strengthen their hold on the country by a brutal crackdown that can only lead to more problems and possibly a total collapse of most of the country (I will speak on this separately  ) or they will attempt a policy  of gradual liberalization to some extent such as what you saw in China after the Cultural revolution.   This second option would slowly pull parts of the country out of the crisis  and slowly rebuild what little is left of the economy a start building in up higher than before, however unlike China North Korea is not a rich in natural resources other that agricultural land, since the Northern part of the Korean peninsula has most of the agricultural land and South Korea has most of the other natural resources (surprising for a country that is almost always starving).  If the new leaders can realign the agricultural sector away from most state control and allow private ownership of land they can slowly build up the agricultural base so they can begin to build their industrial base away from the defense industry and into the export market.

While the Chinese model is not the best however when going from a completely planned economy to a more free market economy a sudden shift can cause major problems such as in Russia where everything ended up being owned by the Party leaders or Mafia who had money and left the average person with nothing.  The slower approach will give the average person time to adjust to the demands of the world market and the 21st century while strong government over-site can attempt to keep it from going into a free-for-all.  In South Korea the government was basically a dictatorship for years while the economy however was slowly turned into free market capitalism and only after the standard of living was raised.  The thing is the Chinese model works more for short term growth while the South Korean model – similar to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore known as the Asian Tiger economies – worked better for long term growth and a higher standard of living for the whole country rather than in China were it is mostly only been in the urban areas.  So I would say the best plan for the new North Korean leaders would be to use some government intervention in turning the agricultural sectors into free market farms while also supporting the beginning  of an industrial sector based of cheep exports such as textiles as a stepping stone to a much larger manufacturing sector.  This will stave off a total collapse long enough for a turn around in the economy so they wouldn’t have to rely  on handouts.  Another problem is with schooling, the government schools now are nothing more than political propaganda  outlets that teach almost nothing, the average person has been so indoctrinated by this point that a sudden opening of the country will only scare and confuse people, it would take years to undue all the damage the schools have done, so the government needs to start a program with the youngest children and start getting them real educations so they can eventually be able to take over when they are older. Along with that they will need to get people from other countries like South Korea who understand economics, business, science to help teach the older people as well as advise the new government on the best course of action economically so the new government doesn’t make the same mistakes all their predecessors have done and what they have been indoctrinated to do all their lives.   I would say this process would take at least 30 years to bring North Korea any where near the living standards of most industrialized and post industrial nations.  If they only go with the Chinese model they will only be where China was 25 years ago, while using parts of the Chinese model and a lot from the South Korean model they should be where South Korea was 20 years ago in 30 years by my estimate.  And Yes 20 years ago you might have looked at me funny if I said South Korea makes some of the best electronics and cars now you think nothing of the fact you have a phone and TV made by Samsung and drive a Hyundai, hell even the phone I bought in Japan is a Samsung.  So while it would not be perfect it would  be a very good start for future and continued economic growth.

In the event of a total collapse that cannot be overcome such as in the event that the new government refuses to change anything their are also several options.  The first option would be that the country could break apart into feuding   sections run by ex-military warlords such as what happened in Somalia.  You will basically have a North Korean Somalia where a warlord could have nukes but the warlords will also have a lot more advanced military hardware than the Somali warlords.  How long it will be functional without a functioning industrial base is anyones guess and the chances of them trying to sell it to other countries or groups would be very high because the warlords are looking for money in a country that has none.

Second; they could get propped up by another country like China who gives North Korea just enough money and food not to totally collapse just long enough for the North Koreans to try a new approach , however how long it takes and how generous other countries are is something to think about.

Third; reunification with South Korea.  This might be a way out however it has it’s own problems.  North Korea is so far behind South Korea in everything that is would take trillions of dollars to bringing their new citizens anywhere close to the level of South Korea would would have a country that took on another country as essentially an entire welfare state bankrupting South Korea.  This is what almost happened during the reunification of Germany, the eastern part almost destroyed the entire German economy because of how far they where behind and it took years to start getting up to the level of Western Germany, and it still isn’t there yet, since a much higher percentage of government spending is required in the eastern part of Germany than the Western part.  North Korea is worse than East Germany ever was the merger could destroy the whole country.  For reunification to actually work they both Countries would have to work together but not completely and allow the North to build their economy for about 40-50 years before they could hope to try it successfully or without much strain on the South Korean economy.  North Koreans simply do not that the skill or education to compete with the South Koreans and it would turn the North Koreans into an underclass similar to American Blacks* when on the day they where released from Slavery.  Although at least in the case of American blacks they had modern agricultural knowledge – for the time- in an agricultural economy, so for that I would say if it where not for racist laws they would have been a step ahead of the current North Koreans.  Even now with the current disparities American Blacks if they were their own country they would have the 7th largest GDP in the world and if it were not for social issues like an extremely high out of wedlock birthrate and a much higher drop-out rate, American blacks would be on par or much closer to the average in America but it took years to get here.  Mind you that just an example are we can argue the differences between the two situations such as the Slaves and their descendents grew up understanding the country they where in and the ideas of freedom and capitalist economics (something they don’t teach in schools now unless they are saying how bad it is) and aspired to get involved with it, the North Koreans don’t have any understanding of it and are at a disadvantage in that respect.   I digress this is about North Korea not the history of American blacks maybe another time and another fight.

Politics; the political system is also what we need to think about.  there are many different ways this could work.  If we are going off of the South Korean model, it would be a dictatorship until the populace has the means and necessary education to take power into a Representative government, although the structure could be any number of things.  There are different kinds of Democracies or Representative Democracies.  You could have like the European model were while people do vote the country is still run by almost a Socialistic Oligarchy were industry is highly regulated but not owned by the state and the people have very little say but they do have some power, a mix of Public and Private ownership or even a full Republic where the government doesn’t own anything, it could also end up like China, Where the Communist party controls the government and very little personal political or religious freedom but an advancing private economic sector.  Or it could be warlords.  I all really depends on the means and mode and level of change and collapse.  The best option to me would be a Constitutional republic were the government has limit and specifically defined powers and the people have the most freedom but that only works when people have the knowledge and motive to make it work.
I don’t know if this answered the question or just made more questions for my readers.  It’s always hard for someone to say what is going to happen tomorrow it’s impossible to predict everything the future holds sometimes you can’t predict anything, and while we have theories they are just that theories.   Also this is condensed and short and I left things out, simply because in order to really get into everything I would have to write a book and I don’t have time for it, plus I am already fiddling around pretending to finish (continue) two books already (that I might never finish or publish) as well as other posts such as one on Vietnam I started months ago got to about 6,000 words and sort of got distracted from it and have not finished.  It’s hard to keep things up sometimes when you don’t get paid to do it and you sometimes have a life to go to.    Maybe I’m lazy or maybe I lack a Muse.

* For people that care or are offended  by my not using the term African-American I just want you to know I hate the Hyphenated shit.  Unless you where born in Italy you are not “Italian-American”, hell once you get your citizenship you are not Italian you are American same with people from Cameroon or Thailand, and if you were born in America you are American the only proper way to say it that doesn’t completely piss me off is to say you are “American of Irish decent”, and that even sounds silly although it explains your love of The Pogues (but who doesn’t?) .  That’s the problem people have to segregate themselves by either class, race or ethnicity into pointless groups, then we wonder why everyone hates each other.



  1. To make a small point about reunification, while a total take over of the Korean peninsula would surely collapse and fail, one could surmise that, moving the demarcation line slightly to the north to include the cities of Ongjin, Haeju and P’yonggang, but south of Changyon and Sariwon, may be a good alternative to blatantly running your country into the ground. With the demarcation set here, the islands of Paengnyong-do and Sunwi-do would still be under S. Korean rule, the line would make a little bit more sense and the newly included cities, Ongjin and P’yonggang would give S. Korea more space for farming, while Haeju is an important military point/port/airport.

    So your three major cities, newly incorporated, can slowly begin to reap the benefits of a stable economy, better schooling, (dare I say it) welfare programs etc, while the rest of North Korea can continue the painstaking task of rebuilding itself.

    Also, under this plan, South Korea would have to allow OPEN transportation into and out of the port city of Haeju, which would further stimulate growth through trade/tourism.

    Just a thought though

  2. You have some good ideas, but remember the people in Pyongyang are some of the most loyal to the Kim’s because they usually get more food then the rest of the country and many of them work for the Party and might not be very apt to cooperate. Plus by leaving out the Northern part you leave it open to Chinese influence, something they will definitely try to go for and angering the population who would feal left out and less likely to join latter and will probably end up running to the Chinese leaving it open to become the same thing in was before only slightly smaller, or end up becoming part of China. Russia on the other hand would find some way to use it has a hammer against the west, since they keep forgetting the cold war is over but it is debatable how much they would do if anything. That and Russia and China still hate each other so the Russians might not do anything since they might not think it’s worth it to piss off the Chinese. But it is something to think about.

    One thing I did forget to mention in the post was that if North Korea did collapse into a Somali style anarchy there is always a very good chance China or to a lesser extent South Korea might invade in order to try to end the violence. I would say China is the most likely candidate because they would care less about world opinion when they did it and they would know that it would be almost impossible to stop them. North Korea might end up “The Other Tibet”, or China would attempt to install some form of puppet/client state such as the Soviet Union did with the Eastern Block countries if they thought they had something to gain from it.

    South Korea might invade in order for reunification and to stall the violence but if would all depend of public opinion on how far they could go. Plus they might think it’s to costly both politically and financially to try a full scale invasion since unlike China they would need support from other parts of the world. In this case not only would South Korea have to think about the financial cost of the war itself but the financial cost of the aftermath, something I already spoke of and in my opinion would bankrupt them without massive amounts of foreign aid something right now they probably would not get very much of. The Japanese might want to help South Korea some but they run a risk since the North Koreans have grown up all their lives hating the Japanese and Americans so the North Koreans might freak out even more if they thought Japan was getting involved. China might pretend to help but I think if their help in anything would be more counter productive to the aims of South Korea, and I don’t think the South Koreans would even trust the Chinese enough to let them try.

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