North Korea

I have long cited North Korea as an example of an autarky economy. Yet it is also the home of Stalinism and is a blight on the world. The latest revelations that the uncle of Kim Jong Un, Jang Song Thaek,  has been purged and  executed is not uncommon under the North Korean regime. Now Jang has been (digitally) airbrushed out of photos with Kim Jong Un. This has an eerie resemblance to the Stalin regime where non-people such as Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov were airbrushed from history. This is straight out of Orwell’s 1984.

How long can China continue offering support and comfort to this odious regime? It, and only it, has the power and opportunity to reform North Korea and bring it into the 21st century.

The Korean War of course was a battle between communism and capitalism, and resulted in the division of Korea. The divergence of North from South Korea is a testament to the hard working and innovative South Koreans under a market economy (albeit with some flaws) versus the Stalinist regime of the North. The gap between the two countries in terms of wealth, freedom and utility is orders of magnitude greater than that between East and West Germany prior to the German reunification.

Perhaps Korea will one day be reunited. But the key issue is North Korea which is not only a security threat to the world (including China), but also has impoverished its starving and abused people.

By embracing a market economy, rather than communism under Chairman Mao, China has made dramatic inroads in reducing poverty within its borders. It has grown remarkably over recent years. It retains some remnants of a communist system in terms of governance, although it is arguable how long these can persist under a rapidly growing economy where the middle class becomes ever richer – its people are moving up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Yet, despite this turnaround, China continues to support the North Korean regime. It is unclear, and unlikely, that North Korea in its present form offers any national security benefit to China. It probably worsens China’s security interests.

If China were to purge the North Korean regime and bring a China-like regime into power, while guaranteeing the independence of South Korea, it would be doing the world a massive favour and would genuinely be helping the people of North Korea.

Even by instituting such reforms, it will be decades before North Korea could resemble a modern state – its people have been brainwashed and it will take generational change for it to fully adapt to a market economy. But we must start somewhere.

This is something I hope Xi Jinping takes to heart – it is time for China to step forward and start the long process of North Korean reform.

About J

J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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17 Responses to North Korea

  1. james

    Sam China really just doesn’t give a shit. Nk is their junkyard dog they can use to scare the neighbourhood.

  2. Stateless, free and happy

    Dont hold your breath. North Korea serves China’s interests – it destabilizes the region. The Chinese communist party is the largest organization on the planet. And its growing in power.

    China is a much greater menace than North Korea can ever be.

  3. Ant

    Bit hard to tell North Korea apart from Detroit. Except that in Detroit the people voted for their own demise.

  4. Robert O.

    History shows that with the Russian empire change started at the top with Glasnost etc. and filtered down to the former communist regimes, prior to that they sent the tanks in. So in this case with an extreme Stalinist regime in N. Korea, it won’t happen until there are changes in Bejing.

  5. Bruce

    Don’t hold your breath waiting Samuel.

    China’s behaviour is forcing the countries in the region to cooperate on defense. This week was India and Vietnam. Last week it was Japan and South Korea despite quite bad blood resulting from their own recent dispute over an island. And yesterday the Philippines and Japan signed a security agreement.

    China has pissed off most of her neighbours in the last couple years. Since Burma has jumped ship into the arms of ASEAN they will not burn the Norks no matter what they do, as they are their one and only remaining military ally.

  6. Entropy

    This is something I hope Xi Jinping takes to heart – it is time for China to step forward and start the long process of North Korean reform.

    Maybe you should send Xi Jinping a strongly worded letter.

  7. rickw

    China is very far from benign, in fact I would rate it as being far more dangerous than Nth Korea. Nth Korea is crazy, but largely impotent, China is both crazy and potent.

    China currently has some sort of serious dispute running with pretty much every single one of its near neighbours, Taiwan, India, Vietnam, Philipines, Japan, South Korea.

    In addition, any country which finds itself “friendless” because of its actions, quickly finds China extending it a “helping” hand. eg. from Fiji to Iran, they’re in there.

  8. How long can China The Communist Party continue offering support and comfort to this odious regime?

    As long as they like, what do socialists care for the people living in North Korea or surrounding countries.

    The only ‘communism’ left in the party is the jackboot to the Chinese people’s throat and theft of their meagre earnings.

  9. Jim Rose

    Anyone know who thought up airbrushing fallen rivals out of photos?

  10. Mr Rusty

    Anyone know who thought up airbrushing fallen rivals out of photos?

    That’s a QI type question isn’t it…
    Most people would say Stalin, if he wasn’t the first he was certainly the most prolific.
    Go on then, who was it?

  11. stackja

    This is something I hope Xi Jinping takes to heart – it is time for China to step forward and start the long process of North Korean reform.

    Chinese Communist Party still purges it capitalist lapdogs.

  12. North Korea may think its a threat to anyone but in reality the only reason they exist is because of the great loss of life China endured in their defence, a sacrifice China isn’t likely to make a second time.

    China is only tolerated because they have money, and it is an embarrassment to us all to watch the endless parade of Western leaders making the new-age pilgrimage to Beijing with their begging-bowls out hoping to get some scraps.

    As for China being a security threat, any time they want to experience what the Allies did to Germany I say we indulge them and remove the last bastion of socialism from the world order once and for all.

  13. Bons

    It is interesting reading books about the few defectors that make it to the South. They are well cared for but very few can make the transition, often because of the attitude of the average SK citizen who simply don’t like them.
    I witnessed the transitions in the Czech Rep and E Germany at five year intervals over about 20 years.
    The striking event was that a large section of the population simply disappeared – not in the Stalinist sense of the term but they withdrew from society. There are millions of ex-state employees sitting in their workers paradise flats who only appear when they wander down to the corner Vietnamese convenience store to buy wodka, second hand US clothes and subsistence food. The difference between tourist Prague and suburban Prague is stunning.
    In the Czech Rep it was people who could not make the transition, but E Germany was far more brutal – “your services are no longer required and nor are you”.
    Nasty lady – history.

  14. Fisky

    E Germany was far more brutal – “your services are no longer required and nor are you”

    Good. I’m glad those people were thrown on the scrap heap, after what they did.

  15. sabrina

    China making great progress………… all means
    Moon landing this week

    Stealing secrets from the CSIRO

    Stealing IP and shafting Alstom -

  16. stackja

    I know a German born man he came here after WW2 and worked. Married, built a house, still works even in his 70s. He does not expect anything to be given. People who adapt can survive.

  17. Combine_Dave

    Any chance for peace in our time?

    Besides I had the distinct impression that S.Koreans have no interest in ‘reuniting’ with the failed North.

    China won’t want to cause the collaspe of the buffer NKorea offers against the West and aside from doing this (or threaten to so ) they don’t really have a lot power over N.K

    Ther are plenty of disputes in the area (largely as appears to be difficult to establish mutually accepted maritime boundaries), aka Japan v SKorea, Japan v Taiwan, China and Taiwan v Japan, Taiwan v philipines, Vietnam, Russia etc…

    The difference being only the disputes between the resurgent China and Western containment allies are the only ones liable to kick off WW3.

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