Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Some Trump/Kim Comments - Because Why Not?

The 24 hour news cycle was predictably all abuzz about the summit between President Trump and First Secretary of the Party Kim Jong-Un.  Last night, I watched Fox's Chris Wallace talking about how nothing has been achieved yet and Kim hasn't given up anything.  I almost yelled at the TV that he was a waste of valuable air time: the meeting hadn't even started yet, of course nothing had been accomplished.  What are you gonna say next, Chris, "water is wet"?

I don't want to talk about what they're saying.  This is just an "as I see it" hodgepodge of thoughts.

To begin with, it's widely known that Kim Jong-Un attended school in Europe.  It's widely reported that one of the ways the people are repressed is by ensuring they don't know how badly they have it.  The people are told they live in a near paradise.  Unlike the vast majority of his subjects, he knows that's a lie; he knows the kingdom is a wreck and he knows he presides over a human rights disaster.  It's also widely reported he really likes much about the US and western cultures.  He loves NBA basketball - hence the peculiar role of Dennis Rodman in the story.  He loves American action movies. 

Someone in the White House, or somewhere else along the line of involved people, got the idea to make a movie trailer to show Kim as the summit opened.  It's an unabashed attempt to show Kim that if he plays nice, he can have personal longevity, wealth, and be recognized as world leader.  It's full of scenes that seem to have been chosen because someone thought he'd like them.  Perhaps you've seen a clip.  That's all I had seen until doing some research here online.  Here is the full, HD version of the video.

Blogger LL over at Virtual Mirage (you are reading him, right?) had some important insights into the chances of getting something through even with a signed document from the summit.  The North Korean economy, such as it is, is largely involved in their military and weapons research.
The North Korean economy is a dependent of the armed forces and the arms industry. North Korea has a mostly closed society and economy that supports and sustains a million able-bodied men in uniform from a population that the CIA World Factbook estimates is 25 million. Four percent of the population is on active duty in uniform. In the US and China, people in uniform account for less than a percent of the total population.
The military reserves and red guards represent at least 20 percent of the population. Adding in family dependents and connections, we estimate that at least a third, and probably closer to half, of all North Koreans depend on the armed forces and the arms export industry as consumers. 
The economic ripple effects of supporting the army, the reserves and the red guards affect every sector of economic activity and almost every household. Without the Korean People’s Army, the North Korean economy would collapse. Without an identifiable enemy (the USA), there is scant need for 50% of a nation to be TOTALLY dependent on the military for sustenance.
As I said in a comment there, I had never considered the terms "military industrial complex" and "North Korea" in the same sentence, but having 50% of the economy dependent on the military could conceivably be a big problem.  It's important to note, as LL does, that South Korea also spends a large part of its budget on the military.
Millions of livelihoods on both sides of the Military Demarcation Line are tied to maintaining the existing conditions of no war and no peace for the past 65 years. Those conditions are so deeply rooted that change itself has become a threat and a huge challenge.
Of the two Koreas, I think the South Koreans could handle workers coming out of the defense sector much easier and an order of magnitude or two faster than the North Koreans.  

In the history of the world, as far as I can tell, one constant of societies has been palace intrigue; someone plotting to off the guy in the throne to take it themselves.  Isn't there a favorite fantasy TV series about this?  Stories are starting to circulate that Kim has replaced "hard liners" in his government with others more open to, if I can reuse the old term from the Reagan era, détente.  Depending on how many "hard liners" there are and how well they are hidden in the palace, it's worth asking if Kim can survive.  We know he has no reluctance to kill those he considers a threat, extending to their entire family, so his ruthless brutality may work out to be something that raises his chance of survival. 

Another "information-free" sound bite (in the sense that you already know it) is that "this is just a first step; step one of hundreds to follow".  Among the most important steps are (1) keeping Kim alive - if he's really committed to this, (2) figuring out ways to get the North Korean economy to survive the economic shock.  The real problem here is the double burden of not just having an 18th century economy, but having it organized as a communist economy. 


  1. I think that it would be narcissistic of me to agree with you, but naturally, I do.

    Chris Wallace is an appendix of the Deep State.

  2. South Korea will have to slowly integrate the North into its economy even if it does not mesh together as quickly as the East and West German economies merged. There are still parts of East Germany that are not as functional as they could be. It might take multiple generations to find common political and economic common ground.

  3. One question:

    Just how much $$$ would it take to keep North Koreans in at least a slightly better state than they currently are while their country transitions? I suspect the answer to that is FAR less than what we are spending on various other stuff around the world today. Sure would be a shame if the US were to stop funding the UN and instead send that money to the Salvation Army for them to spend in North Korea...

    1. I think about $1.50 spread over all 25 million North Koreans, not $1.50 each, would be more than they live on now.

      Slight exaggeration, but I think your idea is right on.

    2. And note what even the CFR says we give the UN:

  4. The first thing to remember is that Asians are not Westerners.
    (If I have to belabor the point with countless examples from throughout history to the present, you're not tall enough for this ride.)
    The second is to remember that the Norks aren't even like the rest of Asia.
    The third is to ponder that in order to discredit the communism under which entire generations of Norks have labored, is for it to fall, hard, and even more disastrously that communism crashed in Russia, or emperor worship crumbled in Japan.

    Failure of this pre-condition means that a sizable percentage of Koreans would persist in the greater-than-half-a-century monumental error that has propped the Kim dynasty up in the first place.

    Like an alcoholic, the Norks simply must crash hard and hit bottom, in order to find the need for a change.

    Giving them what they want, while not giving the West what we want, just gets us a mini-PRC: an expansionist military state, fueled and paid for by capitalism, of a type controlled and contained like the fuel in a nuclear reactor. Ask Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines, and even Japan how that's working out for them. (Hint: Japan didn't just suddenly decide to start building aircraft carriers for the first time since the 1930s for no reason.)

    As long as both China and the Norks cling to communism and state-run economic and social life, they are mortal enemies of western democratic republics, whether they chose to exploit that position fully at any given moment or not.

    Once they abandon central economies, and try living as free republics, they're just another new potential ally. It's the difference between living next door to a crazy drug addict/dealer with guns, versus a guy who's clean and sober, who just likes deer and hog huntin' and big pickup trucks.

    The last thing I want is to ease the pain for the Norks.
    I'm willing to see things turned down a tad, provided the noose is still just tight enough that they pass out unconscious, and if while they're in that state, lose their grip on the entire nation, well...

    Any moves vis-à-vis the Norks have to accord with China's interests, or they'll continue to be used as a pawn, and the last thing they want is a thriving capitalist economy along the Yalu River border, which would simply shift the DMZ there from the 38th Parallel.

    It would also likely provide nothing but an object for their military, itching to a chance for a real-world trial, to want to grab.

    North Korea exists at all as a lesson in Communist expansion, and if its survival didn't suit TPTB on their side, it would have been allowed to die out decades ago.

    We need to flip their allegiance, and then we have a client state on the border of one of the last, and the all-time biggest, communist powers on the planet.

    We cannot burgle Asia, and steal China's most vital client state from their orbit overnight. It would be Prague Spring or Hungary 1956 all over again.

    The Norks need to be demilitarized and unshackled, bit by bit, so that China doesn't have cause to intervene until it's a fait accompli.

    Anything else is merely a disaster for the people of Norkistan, and a potential trigger to fan the Cold War into a hot one.

    Telling me, therefore, that things are going slowly, is probably the best news there could be, for everyone concerned.

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