Sunday, April 05, 2009

Watching hour 300 of the never-ending television coverage of the North Korean rocket launch, I think North Korea played South Korea, America, and Japan quite well. The result is that the North essentially has free rein to do what it wants and there's nothing anyone can do about it because they have virtually no leverage. North Korea is a miserable country where cell phones are banned, radios are doctored to block foreign signals and people starve to death. Nevertheless, the Kim Jong-il government has done well enough with its fiercely independent juche ideology, savage indifference to the deaths of its people and massive army that foreign powers have great difficulty exerting control or influence.

Pyongyang has dug itself into its retrograde time stasis quite well. It needs food aid but will not give up its nuclear program to do it. It needs foreign investment and currency but will not give up its nuclear program to do it. Pretty much everything and everything is expendable but the nuclear program, because that is the only card North Korea can play. A lesser madman would have come to his senses by now, but North Korea wouldn't hold the horrifying fascination it does for so many if it was even remotely sensible.

North Korea's independence would be admirable if it was not the worst place on earth, combining unimaginable tyranny and complete exclusion from the outside world with unimaginable suffering. Roughly 10% of North Korea's population starved to death in the mid-90s and the situation has not improved all that much since. Clearly, the Kim family's model of statecraft, while not one to be envied or copied, certainly is functional.

Today is a day of triumph for North Korea, whose people don't realize that a few hours' drive from their hopeless gray existence dominated by absurdist Kim family propaganda are the tall buildings, bright lights, plentiful food and modernity of Seoul. Whatever the future holds for North Korea as Kim Jong-il's life enters its endgame, today they managed to thumb their noses at the idle warnings of the world's powers.

Consequently, here is a North Korean propaganda video.

No comments: