Sunday, January 27, 2013
The secret lives of North Korea
This is why an active and aggressive influence campaign must be conducted in north Korea by the ROK/US Alliance. The people that Mr. Everard is talking to might be considered those who are potential 2d tier leaders and often members of what the regime considers the "wavering classes" i.e., those in the middle of Songbun social system of 51 classes. Increasing information to these people will help better prepare a key element of the population for a post-Kim Family Regime Korea as they are potential leaders and technocrats who could make a difference. We need to conduct aggressive psychological operations (or MISO) and a comprehensive influence campaign – standard – e.g., Radio Free Asia and "non-standard" – infiltrating more DVDs or penetrating the closed cell phone and computer infrastructure of the regime as just a couple of examples.
The secret lives of North Korea
What is life like for the non-elite in this closed land? Do citizens really believe that mountains dance when a leader is born? Britain's former ambassador describes the people he knew there
Sunday, 27 January 2013
I had the rare privilege of serving as the UK's ambassador to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (usually referred to simply as North Korea) from February 2006 to July 2008, a tumultuous period that included missile launches and the country's first nuclear test.
In between wrestling with these issues, and despite the efforts of the North Korean regime to block contacts between its citizens and foreigners, I managed to get to know some North Koreans reasonably well – at least to the extent that they were prepared to discuss with me their lives and how they saw the world. In particular, I realised that while many, even some experts, viewed North Koreans as identical automatons who obeyed unquestioningly every order of their leaders, this was simply wrong.
North Korea is not like that at all. It is a real country with real people, whose everyday concerns are often not so very different from our own: their friends, how their children are doing at school, their jobs, and making enough money to get by. Above all, North Koreans are sharply differentiated human beings, with a good sense of humour and are often fun to be with.
The North Koreans whom I got to know were from the outer elite of Pyongyang. These were not the inner elite of the regime, who live in some luxury and rarely if ever interact with foreigners. But neither were they from the impoverished countryside. None of my social contacts was a key decision maker, but many were involved in implementing decisions by the senior leadership. They were executives rather than leaders.
By and large, these people did not eat well, but at least they ate regularly. Their clothing was not smart, but adequate (although all of them had one special outfit for obligatory appearances at parades and other official events). And they lived not in the villas of the elite nor the hovels of the poor, but in cramped flats in respectable, if unprestigious, parts of Pyongyang. Above all, they talked among themselves – North Koreans always seem to have time to chatter, and to share the fragments of information they can gather about their country and the outside world.
Their lives would seem very dull to most Westerners. They revolved around daily rituals of carefully phased breakfasts in overcrowded flats, tedious journeys to work (often prolonged because Pyongyang's rickety public transport so often broke down), and generally tedious work days. I had the impression that they worked at a relaxed pace. They all seemed to have a great deal of time to sit around talking with their colleagues – it was important to them to keep good relations with their workmates, both to create a pleasant working environment but also to make sure they had as many friends as possible if they got into trouble.
After work, they might have to attend a political meeting. When I asked my contacts what these meetings were about they told me that they did not remember. At first, I thought they were politely saying that they were not going to tell me, but I once came across an open-air political meeting at which the audience all appeared to have glazed eyes, despite the best efforts of the speaker. Perhaps my contacts were telling the truth – that they effectively entered a kind of catatonic state in these meetings, simply switching off, and genuinely could not remember what they were about.
Then they would face the commute home. Some told me that whenever possible they would walk – a longer journey but much less frustrating. Some of my contacts refused to use the Pyongyang metro because of the risk of a power cut while they were in a tunnel.
(Continued at the link below)
I strongly disagree with ending the "one Korea policy" As Jay Lefkowitz argues. I would submit that we have had a "one Kore...
Perhaps Tom Ricks' next book Generalship will be an analysis of the hiring, firing, and rehabilitation of north Korean General...
From an interview I did with a Korean media outlet last month. Have not seen an English translation but will post it when I do. “한국 요...
For comparison here are the NSC organizations from Reagan through Obama (Trump's that was released yesterday is pasted below). I have ...