Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Kim Jong-Un Has Little Room to Move

The "Idi Amin" Solution May Beckon

An interesting piece out of Australia has appeared in our local rag.  It is quite some time since we read about the dire internal threats facing North Korea.  Yet, the fact remains that Kim Jong-un is between the proverbial rock and a very hard place.  He faces a threat that historically, in the past one hundred years, has brought down more dictatorships than anything else.

That threat has not been war (although all totalitarian states place their countries on a permanent war footing).  The threat has been people power.  Their own people.  Totalitarian states, those that have imposed secular atheism by force throughout the twentieth century, have ended not with the a bang, but the proverbial whimper.

The article quotes Professor Kim Dong-yup, director of research at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, who has personal experience dealing with North Korea's negotiating tactics, having taken part in previous military talks between the North and South.
Prof Kim said the country's people, brutally oppressed by the regime for so long, are becoming more aware of the outside world and harder to control, so are less likely to tolerate continued economic malaise.  "Given the context, that the North Korean people have access to five million mobile phones and numerous markets where they can access information, the regime simply cannot be sustained through control and oppression," he said.  "The biggest thing Kim Jong-un is fearful of is not the pressure from the outside world it is his people. So he has made the strategic decision that by keeping nuclear weapons, he will not make his people happy and will not ensure his regime's survival.  [NZ Herald.  Emphasis, ours.]
The last thirty years of the previous century teache us what happens when countries build walls not for defence, but to keep their people inside the stockade.
  In the end, the people just walk out.  Thus fell the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc states.   Now the Kim regime in North Korea is facing the same threat.
Lee Ho-ryung, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses, has been studying North Korea for 15 years. She told that Kim's abrupt decision to start negotiating was indeed motivated by the country's struggling economy.  "The economic situation has got worse and worse. Without resolving this issue, his regime can no longer survive. That is why he has to come to the table," Ms Lee said.  "Under Kim Jong-un's regime, unlike those of his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung, people have greater access to information and have experienced capitalism a lot. So if Kim Jong-un fails to address the economy, it will pose a grave threat to his regime."
The comprehensive economic sanctions impressed upon North Korea have hit really hard.  China has been forced to participate in the action and by all accounts the economy is in free fall.
According to Kim Yeoul-su, chief of the Security Strategy Office at the Korea Research Institute for Military Affairs, "a sense of terror" has driven Kim to the table and will continue to motivate him.
"Due to the economic sanctions imposed by the US and also the UN Security Council, North Korea has suffered greatly. Its GDP will shrink by 5 per cent this year," Kim Yeoul-su said.  Furthermore, as part of the UN's push to curtail Kim's nuclear program, many North Korean businesses operating in China have been forced to withdraw from the country — and vice versa — adding to the economic pain. 
But here is the crunch issue.  Kim Jong-un will now have many enemies in the military and the governing elite.  He has tortured and killed enough of them that many of the survivors can be expected to loathe him.  If he weakens, they will pounce.  Just as Stalin was loathed in the end by those complicit in his Reign of Terror, so we should expect that Kim will be surrounded by many who would quite happily see him dead.

We have no inside knowledge, but it would not surprise us if the "Idi Amin solution" were put before Kim--a promise of passage to, and residence in, some erstwhile Marxist country like Cuba or Venezuela, in exchange for relinquishing all power. 

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