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North on Verge of Collapse: Experts

Posted November. 22, 2006 06:55,   


Most experts agree that the current national crisis of North Korea is much more serious now than at the time when the collapse of the regime was speculated on during the Kim Young-sam administration. “North Korea suffers from even more serious economic difficulties than before, socialistic rule and order has been weakened and a growing number of North Koreans have started to express their discontent against Kim Jong Il. This is something unthinkable in North Korea during the Kim Il Sung administration,” said Seo Jae-jin, a researcher at the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification.

International pressure and seclusion in response to its missile launches and nuclear test is also making the future of North Korea insecure. Some experts even believe that China and the U.S. may reach “a big deal” on the premise of establishing a pro-China government in the North after eliminating its leader Kim Jong Il.

In this regard, some argue that the engagement policy toward the North should be reviewed since the premise of the policy since the Kim Dae-jung administration has been that the Kim Jong Il system is so robust that there is no possibility of a regime collapse. Shin Ji-ho, director of the Liberty Union, says in his dissertation dubbed, “New Eyes to Read North Korean Issues and Possible Collapse of the Regime,” that the basic premise of the engagement policy has changed as the North Korean regime has weakened since the death of Kim Il Sung. Shin believes that North Korea is likely to collapse.

He divided the stages of North Korea’s regime fall into five phases: 1st phase - prolonging economic woes; 2nd phase – loosening social order; 3rd phase – rising discontent against the regime; 4th phase – power struggle over the successor of Kim Jong Il; 5th phase – regime collapse.

“North Korea has gradually followed each phase of the regime collapse formula since its ‘arduous march’ in the 1990s. North Korea is currently in the 4th phase,” Shin added.

The 4th phase is a stage where power struggle becomes intense over the successor of Kim Jong Il and the communist state faces isolation in the international community. If the power struggle worsens it will lead to an economic crisis and “a change from the bottom” due to rising protest, according to Shim.

In regard to succeeding Kim Jong Il, hawkish military generals are supporting hereditary succession while Chang Sung Tak, a senior Workers’ Party official, and his supporters are demanding a collective leadership system based on the support of China, according to sources.

Meanwhile, some experts believe that North Korea will maintain its regime by resolving the nuclear standoff at the six-party talks. They say that those who have power in the North share common interest with Kim Il Sung and “a revolution from below” by the people is also unlikely to take place.

“You have to be careful in approaching political instability in a socialist regime while its leader is alive. As long as Kim Jong Il maintains his power, the North Korean regime is unlikely to fall,” Nam Sung-wook, professor at Korea University, said.

However, many North Korean defectors disagree with Professor Nam. They claim that there have been a great number of signs that indicate a possibility of regime collapse. Although there are only some 10,000 North Korean defectors who have entered Korea, it is estimated that there have been over several hundreds of thousands of North Korean asylum seekers who have defected North Korea.

“If you pay about 20 dollars to North Korean soldiers patrolling the border, they just let you cross the border. That’s how much the regime has lost its control,” sources said. “There are a great many number of North Koreans who say they can no longer endure the present condition and things must be quickly changed,” a North Korean defector said.

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