Procurement: Korea Missile Competition


January 18, 2024: North Korea is energetically developing and testing new missile designs. The new missiles use solid fuel and are more reliable. At the same time North Korea continues to accuse South Korea of all manner of imaginary transgressions and uses those imaginary threats to justify all the money spent on missiles and nuclear weapons. This sort of thing has a higher priority than feeding hungry North Koreans. Anyone who follows Korean affairs regularly is familiar with the diatribes North Korea regularly delivers to South Korea.

What keeps North Korea busy recently is their increasing arms sales to Russia. North Korea has been supplying Russia with munitions for use against Ukrainian forces. By the end of 2023 North Korea had sold about 2.3 million, mostly decades-old, 152mm artillery shells to Russia. Weapons sales to Russia during the last two years have been an economic bonanza for North Korea and something of a life saver. The North Korean economy has been a wreck for decades and the socialist north was unable to come up with a politically correct way to deal with this. Before the Ukraine War came along and Russia found North Korea the best source of additional munitions and weapons, North Korea was facing its worst economic crisis since the Cold War, and substantial Russian subsidies, ended in 1991. In the 21st century more North Koreans discovered that South Korea was far better off economically and becoming more prosperous while the north sank deeper into poverty and a return of the starvation deaths last suffered in the 1990s.

Russia pays for most of the North Korea weapons via barter. Russia has supplies of food and technical advice on missile development that North Korea wants. The Ukraine War has been an economic lifeline for North Korea and a military one for Russia. Despite the Russian aid, there are still North Koreans who are suffering. This is especially true during the exceptionally cold winter. The need for firewood over the last decade has reduced the amount of territory covered by forests. South Korea had a similar problem and solved it by restoring forces to areas devoid of forests. In the north, the lack of firewood in rural areas has become a matter of life or death. In addition to the fuel shortage, there’s also a food shortage that is made worse by rising food prices. With food less available, markets can charge more for what is available. Desperate searches for food and firewood are more successful for seekers of warmth. There are a lot of unguarded items that can be burned for warmth. Anything outdoors and unused is likely to disappear during cold weather and be turned into desperately needed heat. When springtime arrives, the absence of items and structures made of wood becomes obvious.

Because of the growing poverty in the north, fewer people are getting married and having children. Unmarried women who give birth often cannot afford to keep the child and give it up for adoption by a North Korean or Chinese couple. While the South Korean population is shrinking because affluent couples worldwide tend to have fewer children, in the north desperate shortages of food and much else have a similar impact on the birth rate.

Another item disappearing in the north is any desire to improve relations with South Korea. These southerners are eager to aid the northerners and there was a time when that aid was welcomed in the north. No more. South Korea has been declared an enemy of the north, despite growing efforts by southerners to aid the north. North Korean leaders see the affluence and prosperity of southerners as a threat to their ability to control North Korea and its deprived population. Democratic South Korea prospers while the socialist Kim dynasty misrules the north. Despite facing vigorous censorship efforts, more northerners are finding out about the prosperity in the south and why such affluence is denied to most northerners. Openly discussing this heresy in the north will get you arrested and eventually dead if you don’t shut up.




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