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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Say what?

I read this and I must say I was a bit perplexed:

As tensions continue to escalate on the Korean peninsula South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said today that the North’s regime could be in danger of collapse “without change,” prodding Kim Jong-un to end his brazen threats of provocations and reform.

And North Korea collapsing would be… bad… why exactly?

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18 comments to Say what?

  • Paul Marks

    The South Korean establishment (including many members of the ruling supposedly conservative party – although they are not as bad as the opposition) are not as you might think.

    Children are being taught to “respect” North Korea, and that unification should take place on the basis of “compromise” (after all there is so much one can “learn from” the North, and NOT “learn to avoid”).

    The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is part of the Western world – that means their academics (and media creatures) love books like “Nudge” (totalitarianism by the installment plan) just as British and American ones do. After all Mr Cameron did not hand out copies of “Nudge” on know-your-enemy grounds, he LIKES this stuff.

    And the South Korean President is committed to increasing (yes increasing) the size of the state (building a society where the state takes care of people from the cradle-to-the-grave) and has her own “North Politic” (yes – based on the absurd “East Politic” of the West German Social Democrats, a doctrine taught to them by the KGB agents among them).

    And the South Korean opposition is worse – much worse.

    One thing to watch is the attitudes of people towards the Korean War.

    The old have personal memories of what really happened – they are pro American.

    But the young just have the propaganda (the anti American propaganda) they were taught at school and university – and watch in media documentaries.

    They believe that Americans were savage butchers who…… (on and on).

    When I say “international, world, ideology” I mean just that.

    The left control the cultural insitutions – the “meta context”.

    There are exceptions – but this is the rule.

  • Steven

    And North Korea collapsing would be… bad… why exactly?

    Well, for starters, the collapse of NK will cause a refugee crisis for both the South Koreans and Chinese. All those North Koreans will want immediate change and figure if it doesn’t come the day after the collapse, then might as well hit the road.

    Then there is the question of how to fix the North’s economy and who gets to foot the bill for that. Remember the problems West Germany had absorbing the East? It’ll be far worse than that. NK has no industry to speak of, no real economy besides 1) Support the Party and 2) Support the Military. Almost everything is designed around those two goals. That’s after someone deals with the immediate problems of food and fuel. Then there is cleaning up the environment, getting rid of all the landmines and bombs laying around, doing something with the members of a military with no purpose, and so on. This will be an incredibly expensive proposition, not to mention one that could take decades. Who pays for it all?

    Then there is the problem of what to do with the three generations of North Koreans that have never had any say in their own lives. What do you do with them? It might be nice to throw some Hayek at them and say something about choosing, but how do you reprogram people who have never had to make any choices about anything into a member of a society that is all about personal choice? It isn’t just choices about clothing and haircuts, but about careers. I saw a documentary some time ago about a woman that escaped to the South and was shocked that A) the State did not automatically give her a job and B) she had some say into what she wanted to do. She just couldn’t wrap her brain around the concept that she was not property of the State and a cog in a machine. There are millions of folks who will need to be fixed and it’ll take more than throwing a few copies of Hayek and the Fountainhead at the masses and saying “good luck”.

    I’m all in favor of the regime being destroyed, but I don’t think it’ll be as rosy as saying “it’s all over folks, welcome to the rest of the world” and that’ll be it. There are some real problems that will need to be addressed both before and after the fall.

  • Mr Ed

    @ Steven Germany’s bill for the East was largely self-inflicted, parity between Ost and D Mark etc. transitional soup kitchens, medical teams and rooting out the Party, and you have an investment oppurtunity. Copy Adenauer, not Kohl.

  • Well, for starters, the collapse of NK will cause a refugee crisis for both the South Koreans and Chinese.

    People fleeing tyranny is bad… why exactly?

    All those North Koreans will want immediate change and figure if it doesn’t come the day after the collapse, then might as well hit the road.

    Good. “It’s all over folks, welcome to the rest of the world”

    Then there is the question of how to fix the North’s economy and who gets to foot the bill for that.

    South Korea, obviously. Seems a small price to pay for not having the world’s most psychotic regime threatening to nuke your cities. And if China ends up full of refugees too, well this is the sound of the world’s smallest violin playing as NK would have collapsed decades ago without China supporting them.

  • Steven

    It’s not the ideological fleeing from tyranny that’s the problem. The problem is the physical results. If you live in a place where the refugees end up, expect all kinds of fun things like increased strain on the local infrastructure and services, the costs of housing and food to skyrocket,, hordes of people who don’t speak the local language or know the local customs (and who once they get a little political power demand that the locals conform to them), scads of people who have no money and no jobs (and in the case of the Norks no skills), oodles of people who may have all kinds of communicable diseases, and let’s not forget the influx of crime. Best of all, after a short time, those people won’t want to leave to go home even if the tyranny is toppled. Miami and Dearborn are the success stories when it comes to refugees and those places were destroyed by the refugees and all the problems that came with them.

    It’s real easy to dismiss the refugee angle when it isn’t your doorstep the refugees will be sleeping on. Singing the “but they just want to be free” song is all well and good, but it kind of loses its impact when they trash your house in the process.

  • Well as I was up close and personal with the ‘refugee problems’ in Bosnia and Croatia, as in I smelled the shit and heard the appalling stories first hand, not via CNN, so my view is essentially “tough shit, guys… deal with it”.

    NK is a nightmarish hell-on-earth open air prison camp and to give a flying fuck about the aftermath of it ending rather misses the point. It is because people tolerate places like NK existing in the first place that these problems come about. Life is not free, it costs. When hell boils over next door, the people affected just have to do what they need to do to pick up the pieces.

  • Mr Ed

    The final collapse of socialism in a country is not pleasant, it was frankly miraculous that the USSR, built on tens of millions of corpses, fell about so peacefully, with so few deaths in the immediate aftermath (i.e. not including the Caucasus etc.). The USSR had time to decay until it was evident that it could not go on. However, in North Korea the insanity has been maintained fairly constantly for 68 years, and quite how it ends is yet to be seen. The fact is, sooner or later, meaningful economic activity will cease altogether and life will become unsustainable even for the supporters of the regime. The sooner it ends, the better.

    Unlike East Germany, where the population were not wholly isolated from the West, the Wall went up in 1961, not 1945, the North Koreans have no meaningful insight into life outside, and how would they flee south with an easily defended border?

    Plan A should be:

    1. Round up the party and Army.
    2. Open the GULAG.
    3. Soup kitchens.
    4. Decollectivise the farms.
    5. Sell off factories to all comers.
    6. Implement the Leveson report to ensure that they have a free and responsible press.

    OK, there’s a flaw there.

  • Alsadius

    I don’t think anyone is saying that we should be propping up the NK regime for fear of refugees. Obviously, its destruction would be a great day for humanity. But that doesn’t mean that the following problems should be ignored – we’d do well to plan ahead for what will happen when 24 million people who have lived lives completely alien to the things we take for granted, and who have no experience living in a capitalist democracy, get thrown into the modern world. Some will adjust well, but millions will go to their graves mourning the Kim regime.

  • Squid

    NK is a nightmarish hell-on-earth open air prison camp and to give a flying fuck about the aftermath of it ending rather misses the point.

    An invasion of 20 million starving uneducated cultists would have effects on the South indistinguishable from an invasion of tanks and infantry. It seems to me that you’re happy to see suffering unleashed and multiplied across a whole region, if it ends the suffering of the Norks.

    How ’bout we compromise on a solution that ends the suffering of the Norks without collapsing the South: dust off and nuke it from orbit.

  • Lee Moore

    I suspect the South Korean Foreign Minister was addressing his remarks to the North Korean regime – for whom the collapse of the regime would be bad – ie he is trying to influence their behaviour. It’s like telling the burglar trying to break into the house – “I’m armed, if you break in you’ll be dead.” The world would undoubtedly be better off minus one burglar, and your remark doesn’t really betoken any urgent desire on your part that the burglar should survive the evening – you’re just trying to persuade him to go away.

    But I doubt the North Korean regime will be persuaded of the need to change. It is an extraordinarily successful regime, which has thrived by not changing at all.

  • veryretired

    NK is a creature of China, and the greatest danger in its collapsing completely would be the Chinese reaction. I doubt they would simply stay quiet and allow an ally of the US to move north and occupy their clients’ territory, especially militarily.

    SK, with help from the US and Japan, who are both intimately involved in the situation, can certainly handle the assimilation, even with pretty large initial costs and some longterm problems.

    What will be difficult is negotiating some form of neutrality for a united Korea that doesn’t cause the Chinese to occupy the north and, perhaps, re-ignite a conflict that nobody wants.

    It’s a tricky business being allied with, and neighbors to, a lunatic asylum disguised as a nation.

  • Bob, Henchman at Large

    “An invasion of 20 million starving uneducated cultists would have effects on the South indistinguishable from an invasion of tanks and infantry.”

    BULLSHIT.

    Let me know next time you see a company of infantry take a building, or a tank blow the hell out of a big piece of steel or concrete.

  • Rob

    A heavily fortified border is not defensible against refugees, unless you are willing to gun down tens of thousands of civilians, which I expect the West is not willing to do.

    Also, why should the collapse of the regime mean 20 million people flee the country? Mass refugee movements tend to occur from wars and occupying forces. So the local commissar may not be there anymore, or he might not be quite so scrupulous about his uniform, but the locals will work out sooner rather than later how to get food to plates.

    The regime is crazy, but the population cannot be. I’m sure most of the strange behaviour of ordinary citizens is just covering their arse in public.

    “Rounding up the military” might be a problem though.

  • Rich Rostrom

    The end of the North Korean regime means a gigantic humanitarian and social problem for the rest of the world and especially South Korea.

    The great majority of South Koreans don’t have any concern for the appalling suffering of their countrymen in the North, only about the potential cost to them.

    Ending the threat from North Korea is an estimated benefit. The North has not actually attacked for 60 years. Complacency sets in. The problem has been “contained”, in the minds of South Koreans. They don’t have to think about it.

    The costs of North Korean collapse would be immediate and substantial.

  • Supposedly, there was a British newspaper editorial written at some point in the 1930s in which an editorialist suggested that Britain be careful and accommodating to the Soviet Union, because if Stalin were to fall “Then the hardliners might take over…” I am not sure if this is a myth or not – brief attempts to verify the quote on my part have come up wanting, but I am rather reminded of this when anyone suggests that the fall of the Kim dynasty in North Korea would be a bad thing. How exactly could it be worse? Yes, you might have refugees heading south. This might lead to slums and shantytowns on the edges of Seoul and Pusan. The people who moved into such shantytowns would do so in order to do low paying, relatively menial world for the South Koreans. Well, let them. I am sure they can be productive enough to be of value to the south, and productive enough to feed themselves from the proceeds. That’s a huge improvement on the situation now. Everyone who can somehow earn a basic living and therefore feed themselves is one less person who has to be fed through aid. People are much more likely to be able to do this after moving south than by staying north.

    Ever seen a developing world city? I’m in one right now. (Casablanca, in Morocco). I’m sitting in a nice shopping mall. There is a nice Carrefour shopping mall in front of me. The place is middle class. Fifteen minutes walk away are some slums, pure and simple, that I walked past a couple of hours ago. What happens is that the people living in the slums work in the economy. Children get a better education than their parents, and move out of the slums. The slums themselves become regularised, and shrink,y and eventually vanished. (I can think of several cities I visited 20 years ago that had slums then and don’t now). Younger people who have moved to cities send money back to families in poorer places, making those places less poor also. This is a good process. It should be allowed to happen. It is much easier for poor people to get richer and to do productive things this way than by staying in poorer places. It isn’t always pretty, but so fucking what?

    A flood of refugees heading south after the fall of North Korea would be an actively good thing. Certainly much better than everyone staying still. Yes, there would likely be a sudden shock, but the fall of North Korea will be a sudden shock and will require a lot of resources to cope with however it happens.

  • But the young just have the propaganda (the anti American propaganda) they were taught at school and university – and watch in media documentaries.

    Quite. I remember in 2003 or 2004 when Rumsfeld went to South Korea and saw all the anti-American protests, partly to do with the Iraq War but also about the presence of the US soldiers in South Korea. I believe Rumsfeld said something along the lines of “Well fuck this, if you don’t want us here fine, we could do with the extra manpower in Iraq.” The South Korean government got rid of the protesters in pretty short order.

  • Given that the Americans prevented South Korea from being North Korea, there is surely no place on earth where reflexive anti-Americanism is quite so silly. As always, criticism of specific Americans and specific American policy is perfectly fine, but anti-Americanism for its own sake? Give me a break.

  • Eric

    Quite. I remember in 2003 or 2004 when Rumsfeld went to South Korea and saw all the anti-American protests, partly to do with the Iraq War but also about the presence of the US soldiers in South Korea. I believe Rumsfeld said something along the lines of “Well fuck this, if you don’t want us here fine, we could do with the extra manpower in Iraq.” The South Korean government got rid of the protesters in pretty short order.

    Korean politicians make great hay bashing the US, playing to the “US out of Korea!” crowd. But when we moved our bases further South and then reduced troop strength, their reaction was “Oh, it would be just like you to abandon us!” I’m with Rumsfeld – South Korea’s economy is twenty times the size of the one to the north. They spend a sum nearly equivalent the DPRK’s entire GDP on their military. They have twice as many people, and have, on a percentage basis, more men capable of taking up arms. If push came to shove a conventional war with the North would end up being a question of “how much will this cost?” rather than “will we win?” even without US involvement.

    In short, there’s no reason for US troops to be there. We should leave.

    Though I will say, in their defense, the animosity does have some historical basis. Look up the Taft-Katsura agreement sometime for a shining example of cynical Great Game stuff. The US signed a mutual aid treaty with the Koreans and then just a handful of years later traded them to Japan for the Philippines. So while we did prevent them from becoming part of North Korea, that was just a few decades after abetting their enslavement by Japan. And while I’ve never run into an American who’s heard of Taft-Katsura, I’ve never run into a Korean who hasn’t.