Mister Pterodactyl
Thursday, December 04, 2003
So let's (finally) talk about North Korea, a subject near and dear to my heart. I recently read another screed by an aid worker and member of a Christian group, complaining about the conditions people are suffering there and the lack of assistance from outside, especially a certain hegemonic world power. The problem I have is this: people like him invariably want to help relieve that suffering, while ignoring its real cause. The cause is of course the North Korean government (it's hard to call it that with a straight face). No amount of aid is really going to help as long as Kim Jong-Il and his ilk are running things. But changing that is difficult and hazardous.

I see three ways it can go. First, we can try to salvage the Agreed Framework (I’m not so sure that it is salvageable, but for now let’s pretend it is). If we do this, we’re really doing two things. South Korean corporations have done about 600 million dollars worth of business in NK this year. Also, the NK black market has come out from under the table, with the approval of the regime. We would have to encourage this, subtly. Greater contacts with SK and exposure to free markets will improve matters. The other thing we’re doing is waiting for Kim to die, and hoping that the next guy is easier to deal with. I believe that the more chronological distance they get from Kim Il-Sung, the farther they get from his Stalinist/Maoist/guerrilla mindset, so I expect that subsequent leaders will be more open to detente. This also assumes further successful dynastic succession, as the alternative (loss of power by the Kim family) almost certainly would involve a coup or other violence, if not civil war.

The second possibility is to clamp down on NK. Monitor their exports, interdict criminal ones with the PSI, stop the illegal trade of weapons, drugs and counterfeit money. Convince SK to cease economic cooperation. Convince Japan to halt remittances from their ethnic Korean population. Isolate NK from any and all outside help, and wait. There are several difficulties. Japan, I think, would go along. SK might not, and China (currently NK’s biggest donor) is extremely wary of instability in NK. I’m not sure there’s any realistic way to convince them to stop, much less to open their border to refugees. Also, NK would probably become much more aggressive, stepping up their rhetoric and even increasing the frequency and intensity of provocations such as the NLL (Naval Limit Line) incursions, missile tests, and special forces infiltration.

In the first scenario, this could become a tit-for-tat; offer one new concession in return for another (but firmly). In the second, it should rather be an all-or-nothing; demand the entire package of reforms in exchange for the entire package of aid, while still strangling NK.

More later. I'm still thinking on it.

Maybe next I'll try to solve Israel.

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