Korea: June 28, 2002

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Off the west coast, two North Korean warships crossed into South Korean waters, opened fire on a South Korean patrol boat, sank it, leaving four South Korean sailors dead and 18 wounded. A North Korean patrol boat was left dead in the water and burning. The North Koreans regularly send fishing boats into rich South Korean fishing grounds. The North Koreans never recognized the sea boundary between them and South Korea. But the rest of the world recognizes it and every once in a while the North Koreans create an incident. In 1999, such an incursion left one North Korean warship sunk and another heavily damaged. These incidents are believed to be deliberate, since North Korea is very much a police state and nothing happens without some big shot authorizing it. Defectors indicate that there is disagreement among senior North Korean officials about how to proceed. North Korea's communist economic system has been a disaster, but shifting to a market economy would mean allowing North Korean's more freedom. North Korea's small ruling class is afraid of what might happen when a lot of North Koreans find out how they have been screwed by half a century of communist rule. Some in the North Korean leadership are willing to take the chance, looking at the unification of East and West Germany. But others look at places like Romania, where senior officials were executed when communism. Perhaps more importantly is the fact that one thing that happened in most former communist countries was that most communist officials lost their jobs, power and privileges when the communists lost power.

 

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