Thursday, April 11, 2013

Here’s What to Do When North Korea Goes South

As I have mentioned we do need to be thinking beyond the nuclear issue and provocations and prepare for regime collapse as well.

Even with Dr. Lankov's scenarios below, I think the framework developed by Robert Collins in his Patterns of Collapse or the Seven Phases of Collapse provide the best source of indications and warning for trying to assess the events that might lead to regime collapse.

Here’s What to Do When North Korea Goes South
By Andrei Lankov Apr 10, 2013 6:00 PM ET

From time to time, newspapers shower readers with predictions of a looming mass starvation in North Korea, usually in springtime. In March 2011, the New York Times wrote: “NorthKorea: 6 Million Are Hungry.” One year earlier, in March 2010, the Times of London warned: “Catastrophe in North Korea; China must pressure Pyongyang to allow food aid to millions threatened by famine.” In March 2009, a Washington Post headline read: “At the Heart of North Korea’s Troubles, an Intractable Hunger Crisis.”

The predictions come every year, but famine does not. Indeed, the last five to 10 years have been a time of modest, but undeniable, improvement in the North Korean economy. According to estimates from the Bank of Korea, gross-domestic- product growth from 2000 to 2011 averaged 1.4 percent per year. Anecdotal evidence and observations support such mildly optimistic estimates.

Malnourishment remains common, but few if any North Koreans have starved to death since 2000. A new middle class can now afford items that were unheard of in Kim Il Sung’s time.DVD players are common. Refrigerators remain rare but are no longer exceptional, and even a computer in a private house is no longer a sign of extreme wealth.

Pyongyang Opulence

The improvement is especially noticeable in Pyongyang. The huge avenues of the North Korean capital, once empty, are now reminiscent of 1970s Moscow: Traffic is not too heavy, but clearly present. In older parts of the city, where streets are not that wide, one can occasionally even encounter traffic jams. Visitors and richer Pyongyangites alike can feast in posh restaurants. Gone are the days when a bottle of cheap Chinese shampoo was seen as a great luxury; nowadays one can easily buy Chanel in a Pyongyang boutique.

This slow improvement in the economic situation may actually be as dangerous for the regime as a famine. Without radical reforms, North Korea might continue to grow moderately, but it is not going to achieve growth rates like that of China or South Korea. The huge income gapbetween North Korea and its neighbors -- the major potential source of political discontent at home -- is sure to keep growing.
At the same time, less daily economic pressure means that citizens have more time to think, talk and socialize. Contrary to the common perception, people seldom start revolutions when they are really desperate: In such times, they are too busy fighting for physical survival. A minor, but insufficient, improvement in people’s lives is what authoritarian regimes should fear most.

An ongoing generational shift poses an especially dangerous challenge. North Koreans below the age of 35 have not been subjected to intense ideological indoctrination, and they have grown up in a world where everybody knows newspapers are not telling the complete and only truth. They don’t remember the times when the state was seen as a natural giver of all things; for many of them, the state and its officials are merely a swarm of parasites. They know that the North lags hopelessly behind the South. They also grew up in more relaxed times, when state terror was scaled down, and hence they are less afraid to speak about such dangerous topics. All these changes in mindset don’t bode well for the long-term stability of the regime. A reckoning might be years off, but it is almost inevitable.

Four Scenarios
(Continued at the link below)

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