FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

The Logic of North Korea

Assuming that North Korea is insane and illogical is a counter-productive approach. Once one has given in to such a sentiment, there can be no reasoning, no progress, and no predictions of what will happen next.

Famine conditions serve a purpose:
-The state concentrates its resources in and around the capital.
-The state keeps its most valuable and loyal citizens in the capital
-The less loyal and less valuable you are, the further away you have to live from the capital.
-The further away from the capital you are, the less state resources you receive, the poorer the farmland and farming equipment becomes.
-Thus the less loyal and valuable you are to the state, the less likely you or your progeny will survive.
-Thus the state all but breeds its citizens for obedience and productivity.

Insane or chillingly rational?”

*Kim Jong Il was alive when this article was written but the principles of the North Korean state are unchanged.*

Truly nothing is permanent, the site I posted this article was posted on was deleted by yahoo over a year ago. And perhaps all of wordpress is deleted 10 years from now or less?  I remember working in an archives once, their worship of paper documents that cannot be changed or deleted except by fire or decay:

Here’s the original text updated 11/28/2015:

Confused with the state of North Korea, many foreigners dismiss the country, its Dear leader, and everything in its borders as ‘insane.’

Assuming that North Korea is insane and illogical is a counter-productive approach. Once one has given in to such a sentiment, there can be no reasoning, no progress, and no predictions of what will happen next.
There is in fact a method to the ‘madness’ and assuming insanity constitutes a refusal to analyze or understand a potentially dangerous government and its policies.

* Firstly, the North Korean government very much has a purpose in mind when it menaces its neighbors with weapons tests and undertakes nuclear development.

The DPRK:

-Wishes to give the impression of erratic, frightening behavior so it can be more intimidating.

-Wishes to be more intimidating so it can get what it wants through threats.

-Wishes to make threats because:
It is a relatively easy way to increase the resources, income, and political clout of the regime.
Intimidation is a deterrent to invasion.
It Is a way for a nation perpetually on the brink of famine to feed itself.

* Even a state with a weak centrally planned economy is not implemented irrationally. Famine conditions serve a purpose:
-The state concentrates its resources in and around the capital.
-The state keeps its most valuable and loyal citizens in the capital
-The less loyal and less valuable you are, the further away you have to live from the capital.
-The further away from the capital you are, the less state resources you receive, the poorer the farmland and farming equipment becomes.
-Thus the less loyal and valuable you are to the state, the less likely you or your progeny will survive.
-Thus the state all but breeds its citizens for obedience and productivity.

Insane or chillingly rational?

* The cult surrounding Kim Jong Il and his family is not insanity, but rather a continuation of tradition.

-Extravagant stories of a ruler’s birth were common in historical East Asian monarchies.
-The Kim family is essentially a modern day Korean dynasty. Korea was traditionally the most Neo-Confucian state on earth. In this system, the common people owed obedience to their ruler just as a child did to its father. This relationship of ‘filial piety’ was regarded as the foundation of society. Exceptional obedience of the populace was not insanity but the proper order.
-‘The great Juche idea’ is in part a modern continuation of the philosophies behind traditional Korean monarchies.

* Much of the North Korean approach is determined from the perspective of Korean history:

-Korea was historically caught in between larger neighbors and periodically suffered devastating invasions. This fostered an attitude of fear towards the outside world. Korea, even more than other East Asian nations has been known as a ‘hermit kingdom.’ This tendency towards xenophobia and isolation continues in both modern day Koreas. It is only much more pronounced in the North.

-The twentieth century was incredibly traumatizing for Korea. Resistance groups under Kim Il Sung spent years fighting the Japanese in both Korea and in China. In the Korean war, conflict surged repeatedly up and down the peninsula. By the end Korean civilization, was in ruins. The North especially had been bombed back into the stone age by the Americans, mostly with lots and lots of napalm. Millions of civilians were killed during the war. The bitter resentment caused by this death and destruction endures to the present day.

— Korean pursuit of nuclear weapons is in part a reaction to precedent set by the Americans:
-Macarthur requested about thirty nukes with the intention of turning the entire border region of North Korea into a radioactive no man’s land through which no Chinese or Russian troops could possibly pass.
-Truman kept the possibility of nukes open even after he fired Macarthur.
-North Korea is loathe to stop its nuclear program when it has already come so close to being nuked.

* Playing the role of North Korea satisfies the needs of its most important client. There is market demand for a North Korea.
-The last thing China wants is to share a border with a staunch US ally that hosts a large garrison of US troops. North Korea is a friendly socialist government that serves as a buffer zone.
-The collapse of North Korea would result in millions of refugees flooding into China.
-The recalcitrance of North Korea serves as a distraction and ties down US troops.
-The ability of North Korea to brazenly stand up to US demands makes the US lose face. The US loses clout when it makes ultimatum after empty ultimatum.
-North Korea is a litmus test that allows the Chinese to see how far the Americans can be pushed. Brinksmanship is risky, it is grand to have someone who’s willing to do it for you.

So long as North Korea serves Chinese interests (it serves as a buffer zone just by existing), it will continue to receive plenty of energy and food aid from China. China might publicly scold the DPRK and even briefly place sanctions, but it will just be for show.

3 responses to “The Logic of North Korea

  1. eric June 15, 2012 at 12:38 am

    It would be logical if you were playing a zero-sum game.

    http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/351/351-13.htm
    Louis XIV required that the greater nobles attend his court (at their own expense) and in return he gave them offices with fine titles but little power. The King wanted the nobles at court so that they could not build up independent power in the provinces. He wanted the administration staffed by competent officials, dependent on him for their tenure. A noble commentator (the Duke of Saint-Simon) sneered at Louis XIV’s administration as “Règne de vile bourgeoisie” (the rule of the contemptible bourgeoisie).

    • Giovanni Dannato June 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      Ha! Louis XIV was hardly unique in having a ‘hostage by any other name’ system.

      Tokugawa Ieyasu was also notorious for requiring his daimyos to be at court. Not only were they under his immediate supervision, this also came with lots of hefty mandatory expenses that impaired his dear nobles’ abilities to raise armies.

      Kings and nobles swapping family members to ensure good will is probably older than history.

      You’ve given me a theme for a possible post, Eric.

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