Korea: The Shadow of 1989

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September 27, 2005: North Korea, sensing that it was not going to get the bribe it demanded in the recent six way talks, and still be able to hold on to its nuclear weapons, has agreed to eliminate its nuclear weapons program, before the goodies are delivered. As a practical matter, no one believes that the northerners will make it easy to work out a deal. There are growing divisions among senior North Korean officials, with policy changing quickly as one faction or another gets control of the press releases. It all has the air of arguing over how to arrange the deck chairs as the Titanic goes down. There is a growing sense that the government structure up north could just suddenly collapse, as happened in Eastern Europe in 1989. The North Korean leadership has been studying the events of 1989 since 1989, and have the same fears.

September 26, 2005: North Korea has confirmed that it wants foreign aid workers (about a hundred people) out of the country by the end of the year. In practical terms, organizations like the World Food Program, the Red Cross and Save the Children, can continue to operate, but only with North Korean personnel supplied by the government. The foreign aid organizations have refused that arrangement, because they know much of the food aid will be diverted to the military, or sold on the open market to raise cash. The North Koreans want the foreigners out, because too many North Koreans are getting to know them, and about what is really going on in the rest of the world. This is causing unrest in the north, and the government is trying to protect itself. Shutting down the food programs will have an adverse impact on several million North Koreans, and will eventually kill over a hundred thousand of them. It's been suggested that the North Korean leadership be charged with crimes against humanity for their murderous behavior (which has already killed over two million North Koreans in the last decade), but the U.N. refuses to go there.

September 25, 2005: Meanwhile, the South Korean army takes over control of more and more of the wartime jobs in the south. Ever since the Korean war (1950-53), the American generals have run things in the south. No more, for by the end of the year, South Korean commanders will take over control of counter-battery fire against North Korean long-range artillery attacks. The South Korean Third Army will take over command and control of operations involving U.S. and South Korean forces in combat. South Korea will also take over control of operations against North Korean commandoes, on air, land and sea. These command jobs have been an increasingly touchy subject in South Korea. But now, with more American troops leaving, and South Korean forces growing in capabilities, there is little reluctance on the part of the Americans to turn over things.

September 23, 2005: North Koreas demand for electricity supplies from the south, in the form of a large nuclear power plant, which will cost the South Koreans over six billion dollars. Most South Koreans are willing to pay it, if this keeps the North Korean government in power, and puts off the collapse of communist rule in North Korea (and several hundred billion dollars in unification expenses for the south.) These days, the south fears the north, not for the possibility of a military attack, but for the vast amount of wealth that would flow from south to north, to pay for reunification and rebuilding after the communists are gone.

 

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