sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Problem with Peace with North Korea

Politics and Reality

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Balakrishnan will visit Pyongyang before the North Korean-US summit. Singapore’s The Straits Times reported on 6 June that Foreign Minister Dr. V. Balakrishnan will make an official visit to North Korea on 7 and 8 June. He visited the US this week and met with the US Secretary of State. It's part of protocol as the summit between the Norks and the US draws closer.

President Trump is having fun with the corrupt, lying, elite media and the Korean experts. This meeting will be important mostly for its occurrence and secondarily for any agreement on some broad principles. Kim Jong Un described it as a beginning. The mainstream media shows little appreciation that the threat of peace is almost as great a crisis as the threat of war.

The Problem with Peace

The eight-year interlude during the Agreed Framework provided a glimpse of how difficult peace would be for North Korea. When North Korea shut down and froze the Yongbyon nuclear complex, it relocated an entire town of engineers and the people who supported them. The barracks buildings at Yongbyon housed thousands of engineers, a US source told us. They were emptied, one source said, “almost overnight.”

Peace is a challenge far beyond diplomacy. 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.

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. 

Factory output would contract, even if foreign markets emerged quickly. Almost all North Korean factories are dual-use enterprises. That means that half of what they produce is directly for military use or that a civilian factory also operates a secondary military production line for direct military use. 

To illustrate, a factory that makes ceramic bowls also will have installed and will operate a small arms ammunition production line. North Korea does not make ceramic bowls for export. The domestic demand for ceramic bowls is too small to keep the factory operating full time, but it can still make ammunition and keep the work force employed. Armies almost never have enough ammunition and everyone has a right to a job. 

When Kim Jong Un said North Korea did not need nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles if its existence was guaranteed, the same rationale could be applied to the million-man army. Kim was not talking about his army, which is important. The North Korean idea of denuclearizing the Peninsula has nothing to do with reducing forces. That issue has not come up, curiously.

Nevertheless, a peace treaty between North and South Korea would imply that a large Korean People’s Army eventually would no longer be needed and that a fundamental restructuring of the North Korean economy eventually would have to occur.

I am confident that Kim just wants the US forces to leave South Korea. He has no intention and probably no ability to try restructure or downsize North Korean forces without risking a military uprising and assassination.

In South Korea, peace would not be so disruptive because the South Korean economy is more integrated with the global economy. It is not vitally dependent on the existence of the Republic of Korea Army or on US Forces-Korea. 

War is a Racket

However, sectorally, peace would profoundly threaten the defense and security industry in South Korea, with large ripple effects in the US itself. Up to a million American expatriates and defense contractors and subcontractors and their families in South Korea would be looking for work, if the US downsized or dismantled US Forces-Korea. 

Dismantling a nuclear program is trivial compared to dismantling or reconfiguring a military-industrial economic system to make peace. 

Kim Jong Un

Dear Leader, sion of the Kim Dynasty, lived in Switzerland from 1991 or 1992 until 2000 and attended the Liebefeld Steinhölzli School near Bern, Switzerland under an assumed name. During that time he was a lackluster student but had a fascination with America and with American basketball. From 2002-2007 he attended the Kim Il Sung military university in North Korea. He knows the difference between lifestyles in Switzerland and Europe and those in North Korea, unlike most North Koreans who live in the Hermit Kingdom. He's also smart enough to know that the world of the Norks can not change over night. It's an incremental process and he may have the political stroke to pull it off without being murdered by his own people.

The meeting in Singapore will likely lead to an official end to the Korean War (rather than the armistice which has been in place all these years). That's a big step. The US and South Korea will sign off on that. Other steps will follow, and as was explained above, they can't move THAT fast. 


25 comments:

  1. I've got to tell you, LL, I've never thought of the words "military industrial complex" and "North Korea" in the same sentence before.

    What an eye opener.

    I've been considering that maybe Kim's bargaining position is that American troops leave the peninsula, and he becomes exalted ruler over a reunified Korea.

    What I think Trump's biggest advantage must be is that in his line of work, I'm sure he had to negotiate with the mafia before. That's got to prepare him well for this.

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    1. Trump has had the mafia on one side of him and (Cryin') Chuck Schumer on the other side - which is roughly the same thing. I think that this first summit will end the war. Then the US Eighth Army sends a battalion home to the US (or wherever) and the Norks demobilize a bit while receiving aid to feed the people. It's a process. De-nukeing has to be part of it. But the US has to decide what to do with 20,000+ Army types plus support + USAF. The easiest will be the US Navy's CNFK, because there aren't very many navy types in-country.

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  2. Peace may break out in Korea and Trump may get a Nobel for that. Imagine all the lib heads exploding.

    Nice peace dividend.

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    1. Obama received the prize for having a black father. The bar for the Nobel Prize is VERY low. I think that Desmond Tutu received one as well for being a pederast.


      Trump should receive two for actually doing something.

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  3. I believe I heard that Schumer wants to throw a monkey wrench into the works of this peace process.

    They really are an economy based on their military.

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    1. The Democrats clearly don't want Trump to succeed. It will give Americans the idea that ANYONE can be a politician...

      There will be a lot of US beltway bandits who will be sad if peace breaks out.

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  4. Truly, it's the military that is used come harvest time. They also build the railways, power stations, hydroelectric projects and must buildings from houses to factories, hospitals and Pyongyangs skykine.

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    1. The Norks will have to develop a new way of thinking without an enemy (that wasn't ever really there). China has changed in remarkable ways without the yoke of Communism. The Chinese still consider themselves communists, but something like 95% of all businesses are privately owned. They created a hybrid with one-party rule. The Norks like that idea.

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    2. Might be interesting to give McDonald's a shot. Use the profits to bribe whomever you have to.

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    3. Some years ago when I was in China, the government ordered a "non-official boycott" of McDonalds. Children (of Party officials) were demanding happy meals and parents felt no choice but to relent. They managed to work it out and McDonalds has been joined by dozens of different US fast food chains. The Chinese changed. The Norks have a much longer road to develop a capital-based economy. They can look at the South Korean prosperity and use that model if they wish.

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    4. " Children (of Party officials) were demanding happy meals..."

      Yeah, that's pretty much where I was headed. The Communist's/Marxist's have used their ideology to corrupt our youth. Turnabout is fair play. We can do the same, using one of the most evil, addictive concoctions we have--fast food. In a generation, they will all be like us--too fat to fight. And the fat Kid could go incognito in his own country.

      Truth be told, a big part of the problem with fast food is that we eat waaay too much at one sitting. I wonder what the nutritional effects might be if every Nork peasant could be magically granted one Big Mac a day. Hopefully they will look south as you suggest.

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    5. South Korea is an economic juggernaut do in large part to its industrious populace. They're a wealthy people and based on my experience, there, they are also a good people. The North would be wise to emulate them. The problem with McDonalds in Norkland is that nobody there can afford a regular cheeseburger with fries and a drink.

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  5. As usual, a perfect explanation of the goings on. War is always based on economic reasons and if your economy is dependent on wars - well, you'll have wars.

    I would not like to see our military presence too downsized over there. There should always be someone to keep on eye on stuff.

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    1. The situation is complex for them and it's complex for us. Incremental success (the end to the Korean War) and a draw-down for the North Korean war posture and their nuclear arsenal needs to be accompanied by the US pulling back. They have to shift an entire economy into producing non-military goods and services and it's something they have NO EXPERIENCE doing. North Korea is essentially a large gulag. You're not "restoring" there, you're putting into place for the first time. Electric light at night, for example.

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  6. Imagine that you lived in an insular country where your only information regarding the outside world was filtered by government censors. Imagine that you've suffered throughout your life from hunger and fear that your government told you is the fault of enemies outside of your nation with whom the nation is still at war. It has been this way for generations.

    Then one day, the war ends. Within a short time, an increasing amount of information becomes available that proves that the government has been lying and that the outside world, more or less, has been largely ignoring the war and has been doing very well for decades, while you, your parents, and your grandparents suffered.

    Dear Leader will become the most despised person in the country. Government workers will be hung from trees. All hell will break loose.

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    1. Precisely.

      And that's why Dear Leader and the political cadre want to move slowly. Nobody wants to see chaos and slaughter internally there. But it's walking along the edge of a razor.

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  7. Thanks for the in depth update, LL. Much appreciated.

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  8. There is a lot of money to be made supplying war efforts. I don't see war going away anytime soon for that reason alone. Feed the CIA kitty to keep shit stirred.

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    1. War is a racket and the military industrial complex in the US feeds on it and drinks deeply from the trough in the deep state.

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  9. Every time I read your phrase "the corrupt, lying, elite media" I laugh out loud and now you've added that President Trump is having fun with not just the media, but with the Korean experts, too. I'm laughing twice as much right now.

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    1. President Trump likes his job.

      It makes the progs hate him more.

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  10. Thanks for the report on things behind the curtain.

    I never considered all the 'vested interests' need to keep the status quo.

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    1. It will upset the applecart and nobody really knows how the chips will fall. We'll have to live another twenty years to see whether or not this whole initiative really works. There are a lot of people in the US who have good cause to scuttle the cause of peace, and not only because they hate Donald Trump.

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