Monday, January 31, 2005

Circling the Drain

I figure while we're posting good news, I feel that we should add this to W's column, as well. :) Seems that the Bush Doctrine's strength of conviction is not simply limited to Libya. The coming months should be interesting. I've seen it cross posted several places by someone named "onefreekorea" so I though it was safe to post it here.--- jm

Times of London: North Korean Regime in Its Death Throes

Two correspondents from the Times of London, who entered North Korea under the guise of potential investors, have filed this remarkable report headlined, "Chairman Kim's Dissolving Kingdom." It paints a picture of rapid decay among the state's mechanism of control, as if only inertia and an initial spark are delaying the regime's rapid (and most likely, violent) collapse. What follow are the major points one distills from the piece:1. The erosion of the fear state is equally visible to casual observers and insiders. The reporters, who rather bravely posed as would-be investors, saw two refugees slip across the border into China between police patrols as the approached the border.
According to exiles, North Korean agents in Beijing and Ulan Bator are frantically selling assets to raise cash — an important sign, says one activist, because “the secret police can always smell the crisis coming before anybody else”.
. . . .
Word has spread like wildfire of the Christian underground that helps fugitives to reach South Korea. People who lived in silent fear now dare to speak about escape. The regime has almost given up trying to stop them going, although it can savagely punish those caught and sent back.
“Everybody knows there is a way out,” said a woman, who for obvious reasons cannot be identified but who spoke in front of several witnesses. “They know there is a Christian network to put them in contact with the underground, to break into embassies in Beijing or to get into Vietnam. They know, but you have to pay a lot of money to middlemen who have the Christian contacts.”
Her knowledge was remarkable. North Korean newspapers are stifled by state control. Televisions receive only one channel which is devoted to the Dear Leader’s deeds. Radios are fixed to a single frequency. For most citizens the internet is just a word. Yet North Koreans confirmed that they knew that escapers to China should look for buildings displaying a Christian cross and should ask among Korean speakers for people who knew the word of Jesus.
. . . .
The regime is fighting to save itself from subversion. Its agents kidnapped Kim Dong-shik, a South Korean missionary, from the turbulent Chinese border town of Yanji in 2000. Last week the South Koreans demanded a new investigation: the clergyman has never been seen again.
The secret police cannot staunch the word of the gospel. Two of our party turned out to be Christian businessmen who had come from China carrying wads of cash. Korean-language Bibles have been smuggled in by the hundreds.
The veneer of communist propaganda is still kept up. “There is no need for religion in North Korea,” said our loyal tour guide. “Personally, I believe in the Korean Workers’ party and our Dear Leader.”
2. Kim Jong Il may already have been dethroned. You heard it here first, but others are speculating that Kim Jong-Il has already been secretly removed from power. The speculation certainly ought to have intensified when Kim Jong-Il failed to meet with either congressional delegation that visited Pyongyang recently.
Some of those interviewed believe the “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong-il, has already lost his personal authority to a clique of generals and party cadres. Without any public announcement, governments from Tokyo to Washington are preparing for a change of regime. . . . Rumours of rivalry and bloodshed have multiplied since the Dear Leader’s last meetings with dignitaries from Russia and China last September. Since then Kim has vanished from view. Analysts in Seoul say that in recent propaganda pictures the bouffant-haired dictator is wearing the same clothes as in photographs from two years ago, suggesting that they may have been taken then. Observers await Kim’s official birthday, February 16, to see if the state media accord him the usual fawning adulation. Actually, according to blogger Yi Shun Shin's superb Kim Jong-Il tracker, Kim last met with a foreigner (from China) on October 3, 2004. Note that visitors first began to note the absence of Kim Jong-Il portraits on November 16th, so the timing checks out. Meanwhile, South Korea continues to insist on massive infusions of aid to keep the North Korean regime securely in power over its starving population.
3. Persistent rumors suggest that the regime's leadership is divided to the point of fratricide. Take those reports with the obvious caution that the sources (or lack thereof) suggest:
Jang Song-thaek, Kim’s ambitious brother-in-law, was purged from party office after he tried to build up a military faction to put his own son in power. Mystery surrounds the fate of Vice-Marshal Jo Myong-rok, the soldier once sent as Kim’s emissary to meet Bill Clinton in the White House. . . . The dictator’s favoured heir apparent, his son Kim Jong-chol, 23, who was educated in Geneva, is reported to have staged a shoot-out inside a palace with Kim Jang-hyun, 34, an illegitimate son of Kim Il-sung, father of the dictator and founder of the dynasty.
. . . .Last April an unknown number of North Koreans died in an explosive fireball that wrecked the railway station at Ryongchon, near the Chinese border, on the day when Kim’s personal train was due to pass through.
Foreign diplomats initially accepted the regime’s explanation of an accident. But two well informed ambassadors in Pyongyang say that they now have doubts. In a telltale measure, frontier guards ordered us to leave all mobile phones at the Chinese border post — rumour has it that the Ryongchon blast was triggered by a mobile phone.
An attempt to kill Kim would come as no surprise. Defections by party officials and army officers have increased as the elite senses that it faces disaster.Background on the Ryongchon train explosion here.
4. With the exception of South Korea, foreign governments are betting that Kim Jong-Il is a spent force. A belief that Kim Jong-Il is finished will strengthen the case against dealing with him or paying off his regime.
The Japanese intelligence agency, in an unclassified report issued on December 24, referred to “signs of instability” inside the political establishment and predicted a feud among the elite as they strive to seize power from Kim. . . . .Japan is considering economic sanctions to retaliate for the kidnappings of its nationals by North Korea and some American policymakers think that the regime should be pushed to the point of self-destruction.
5. The re-election of George W. Bush and America's perceived turn toward "hard-line" policies were a stunning psychological blow to the regime.
Here in the north of the country, faith, crime and sheer cold are eroding the regime’s grip at a speed that may surprise the CIA’s analysts: facts that should give ammunition to conservatives in Washington who call for a hardline policy. Bush’s re-election dealt a blow to Kim, 62, who had gambled on a win by John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Kim used a strategy of divide and delay to drag out nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea through 2004. Kim lost his bet and now faces four more years of Bush, who says that he “loathes” the North Korean leader and has vowed to strip him of atomic weapons.
President Bush does not deserve the exclusive credit, of course--far from it. The story fails to mention the likely importance of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, which passed unanimously on the initiative of Congress, not President Bush. The law requires the United States to pressure North Korea to loosen its oppression of its people by tying U.S. negotiating, aid, and trade policies to human rights concerns. It also appropriates funds for secretly delivering tuneable radios into North Korea and expanding Korean-language broadcasts of Radio Free Asia. Since the passage of the legislation in the House last summer--which first signalled the likely success of the bill--there has a wave of mass defections from North Korea (rapidly followed by desperate crackdowns in China and North Korea); initial signs of resistance have emerged from inside North Korea; there are signs of power shifts and demoralization in the regime itself; parliamentarians have launched similar efforts at human rights legislation in Japan and South Korea; the U.N. has appointed a Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea; and the United States will soon appoint its own Special Rapporteur.
6. Reported "economic reforms" have only resulted in more hardship for the North Korean people and an accelerated loss of state control.
Two years ago the younger Kim introduced free market reforms in a half-hearted attempt to restart an economy that has been dying since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Rajin, a deepwater port that is open to foreign trade, is supposed to be a showpiece of the new economy in the potentially rich northeast next to China and Russia.
However, here we saw economic chaos that has led to unheard-of social disorder. At the central market child beggars chased us along alleys of shoddy Chinese goods, past stalls heaped with decaying fish. A group of dead-eyed teenagers kicked and shoved the younger boys to go after the foreigners. The guides hastily warned us against robbers.
To most North Koreans the prices must have seemed insane. A crab caught locally cost more than a driver’s monthly wages of £1.40. A Chinese cotton vest cost two weeks’ money. Still hundreds of people jammed the officially sanctioned market and dozens of illegal vendors froze outside as they touted vegetables, clothes and hunks of rancid meat. No official intervened to stop the illicit trade. Judging by the aggressive pushing and arguing over the goods, there might have been a riot if they had. A few North Koreans are clearly making money. Many more, though, are falling into penury.
Later we were taken for lunch to a state restaurant where lukewarm fish, vegetables and rice were produced from a chilly kitchen. There were iron bars on the windows and a heavy padlock on the door to prevent looting. Marxists, if there were any remaining in North Korea, might have described the situation as prerevolutionary. . . . .
On a freezing night when Rajin was sunk in gloom, its oil refineries empty, its power stations inert, one building stood ablaze with lights on the bleak seashore northeast of the city.
It was a casino, where slate-faced Chinese gamblers squandered thousands of dollars at the baccarat table while impassive guards scrutinised them for any hints of dodgy play.
That casino, known as the Emperor, has since shut down under intense pressure from China, after too many of its government officials gambled and lost state funds there. Scratch one more source of revenue for a financially desperate regime. More on the effect of economic reforms here.

Guess Kerry was KJI's last hope. Heheheheheheheheheheh.

Posted by: johnnymozart