Monday, October 15, 2012

We're All Under North Korea's Microscope Too

It's not peculiar that under the headline, North Koreans See Few Gains Below Top Tier,  The New York Times reports hoped-for change is slow in coming to the economic culture in North Korean. Despite my positive slant, on both, June 14 and July 20, 2012, it's obvious real conclusive progress would be the surprise. Reporter Andrew Jacobs begins by describing the — weekly shopping trips to downtown Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, by a 52-year-old female pig farmer who tries to ignore the small dusting of prosperity that has begun to transform the city in recent years. 

New apartment blocks. More Mercedes-Benzes on once-empty, but traffic-less, I'd imagine,  boulevards. Smartly dressed young women conspicuously gabbing on new cellphones. And, obviously, of course, the rural woman has never been to the new Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground, a new amusement park where children of the elite howled with delight this summer as they shot down a water-slide.

Trickle down. So at least there's a visual reminder, but, as The Times points out, the North Korean elite is missing the point that they're not protecting their population from the evils of capitalism anymore, especially when their conspiracy of individuals at the top of the system still rewards itself based on their status as it has always been. Ba dump bump. 

The Times prints - In the 10 months since Kim Jong-Un took - power, North Korea — or at least its capital — has acquired more of the trappings of a functioning society, say diplomats, aid groups and academics who have visited in recent months. 

The Times states - from rare interviews - in fact North Koreans said, their lives have gotten harder, despite Mr. Kim’s tantalizing pronouncements about boosting people’s livelihoods that have fueled outside hopes that the nuclear-armed nation might ease its economically ruinous obsession with military hardware and dabble in Chinese-style market reforms. (Ba dump bump)

Come on. Is everyone slow on the uptake? It's an elitist caste system waiting to be bribed to change so none of the actual work is taken on by themselves. How capitalism the world over is usually applied. 

The Times supplies details. - Food prices have spiked, the result of drought and North Korea’s defiant launching of a rocket in April that shut down new offers of food aid from the United States. Development organizations also blame speculators who have hoarded staples in anticipation of reforms that have yet to materialize. 

An elite jumping the gun on capitalism is exactly as it happened in the Soviet Union's waning days.

Rice has doubled in price since early summer, and chronic shortages of fuel, electricity and raw materials continue to idle most factories, leaving millions unemployed.

Uh huh? When the point is especially their working poor don't have enough, exactly what does unemployment really mean? 

But The Times acknowledges their plight. What has become clear in recent months is that Mr. Kim is intent on a new leadership style, allowing more women to dress in Western wear, long branded a capitalist affectation, and breaking with tradition by publicly admitting a failure when the much ballyhooed rocket launch went awry. What is less clear is whether he will allow more than the baby steps toward economic reform that he is reported to have taken.

When as long as it's Kim Jong-Un's decision, and not the general population's, then progress will be stifled by those in control, just as with virtually every nation on Earth. The myth of the equal pursuit of economic growth took centuries to evolve this far. How's North Korea going to do anything much more different than pacify their elite? That said, waiting on opening the economic gates hasn't helped yet either. 

The Times then describes how - changes include a pilot project that North Korean defector groups say was introduced last spring that aims to let farmers keep 30 percent of their yield. The government has reportedly begun a guest-worker program, with the goal of giving thousands a chance to earn foreign currency in and around Dandong, a booming city that taunts hungry North Koreans across the Yalu River with its neon-lit barbecue restaurants.

The Times continues - In interviews with - four North Koreans, though, optimism was in short supply. Emaciated beggars haunt train stations, they said, while well-connected businessmen continue to grow rich from trading with China and government officials flourish by collecting fines and bribes. 

Corruption for everybody. That last link isn't funny, huh? But don't let yourself be bamboozled into thinking we aren't evolved from charlatans and thieves. That's the soap that was believably sold that brought about the communist revolutions, a different elite used to establish themselves as royalty on Earth. Gigs up, no? Even The New York Times says so. 

Page two of the online Times story even includes a picture of women bowling in Pyongyang. My God, when have we ever heard about that before? Don't get me wrong but where North Korea stands now, all Mr. Kim has to do is, figuratively, drop a coin to start an industry. As easy as a coat of paint. Let your people go.

Which is where The Times took us next. - Heightened security on both sides of the border, since Mr. Kim took power, has made sneaking into China much harder than in recent years. Activists who help ferry refugees to freedom in South Korea say sweeps by Chinese police and a crackdown on North Korean smugglers who guide the way to the border has reduced to a trickle those who try to leave. 

It's presumed most escorts are arrested and out of circulation.

A fence along the North Korean border

Summing the situation up, The Times quotes Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert with the International Crisis Group“People leapt to very sweeping conclusions about reform, but it’s not a switch that happens in a day,” said Mr. Pinkston, who visited North Korea this summer. “On the other hand, the privileged few who have a monopoly on certain sectors are making out like bandits.”

Can't stop it, as has been proven time and time again. The solution is wealth is derived from others success and that's been difficult world-wide. Come on Mr. Kim? Time to grin and take on some real growing pains. Remember, however it turns out, Gorbachev will be regarded as greater than many of the combined minds of history. 

So The Times spends 3 pages on the travails of North Korea's lesser rungs that in the west is the middle class and working poor worked to the bone for the better life. So this is what's happening now in North Korea. There's not enough economic activity to pamper but a few. Just as taxing the rich in our culture pushes those with the power to demand more, to give up less, there's no sense begrudging North Korea's elite finally being induced with some incentives to change the country that is in their power to do. 

Kim Jong-un Seems to Get a New Title: Heartthrob

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