North Korea wants to discuss a
wide range of military disarmament issues with South Korea. This is apparently
because the North Korean armed forces have been falling apart for some years
now. At the same time, South Korea is holding back on some major weapons
procurement projects, because of the rapid decline of their most likely
adversary; North Korea, and the possibility that the expensive new gear won't
May 1, 2007: The North Korean government is
having a hard time controlling the Chinese border. The customs police who man
the crossings have become a powerful "union," because of the large
volume of bribes. You can get rich by holding a customs police job for a few
years. As a result, you have to pay a large bribe just to get the job.
Government attempts to regain control have been rebuffed by the large number of
officials who are sharing in the payoffs.
April 30, 2007: North Korea is not happy with
increasing trade sanctions by Japan. So, in retaliation, the government has
declared that all Japanese goods must be removed from the capital, and major
cities, within three years. This means no Japanese cars, appliances, food
products and, in general, anything that would be seen in public. The shortage
of Japanese luxury goods is a big deal with the wealthy party and military
elite, because Japanese cigarettes are particularly popular, and addictive.
Most cigarettes cost about fifty cents a pack, while Japanese brands usually
cost nearly four dollars. Now you can't get the Japanese stuff at any price,
and lot of well off North Koreans are not happy. The average monthly wage in
North Korea is a little over one dollar, plus food, shelter and other goods
provided by the state at nominal prices. For example, rice costs about twelve
cents a pound on the open market, but less than two cents a pound as part of
your government ration. To survive, you have to make something on the side.
Those who don't, are starving to death.
April 25, 2007: North Korea has been removed
from the U.S. arms dealer blacklist. North Korea got on the list for supplying
Syria and Iran with weapons.
April 19, 2007: You can get an idea of the
degree of control in North Korea by the fact that today a policeman was stabbed
by two men, who then stole the cops pistol and fled. This led to a nationwide
alert and increased security along the Chinese border. It was a big deal. The
stabbing was apparently all about a dispute over bribes the policeman was
demanding. South Koreans who do business in the north, joke that soon they will
just be able to buy North Korea, via bribes to all the officials who are for