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[Editorial] North Korea’s 60th Anniversary

Posted September. 08, 2008 08:27,   


Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of North Korea’s communist regime. A series of large-scale ceremonies will take place in and outside Pyongyang, including a Mass Game titled “Long Live our Country.” But the 60-year family succession system is a far cry from a prosperous mother country. Rather, the North has the worst and most oppressive government in the world. During the three-year “March of Hardship” from 1995 to 1997, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans starved to death. This event alone allows no exoneration of the father-son government.

Prior to the North’s independence declaration and foundation on Sept. 9, 1948, then leader Kim Il Sung founded the North Korean People’s Army first to unify the Korean Peninsula under communism. From its birth, the communist regime put priority on military power, something which got strengthened when Kim Jong Il took over after his father died in 1994. The bouffant-haired dictator pushed ahead with a nuclear test in October 2006.

The North’s top military brass forms the inner circle of the regime and enjoys a host of privileges. This military priority, however, deprives North Koreans of food and accordingly imposes hardships on them such as chronic malnutrition and starvation. The dire situation is the same this year. Pyongyang filed an emergency aid request with the World Food Program in May. According to the U.N. relief agency, more than 60 percent of North Koreans, mostly in unprivileged demographic regions, subsist on two meals a day. In other words, the situation is worse there than in Bangladesh.

North Korea has maintained a military machine consisting of 1.2 million active solders and 1.8 million reserve forces. This costs more than 60 percent of the country’s budget. Pyongyang has also spent billions of dollars to develop nuclear weapons. Had the regime bought food with the money, it could have fed its people.

Pyongyang should know its governing and feeding systems have been proven wrong given its failure to feed and clothe its people. One fortunate thing, however, is that the survival instinct of the North Korean people is leading to the development of markets. Watching the miserable reality of the planned communist economy in the 1995-97 famine, North Koreans are recognizing the market system, certain scholars say, adding the North Korean economy is recovering to its 1990 level.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il might think his nuclear deal with the United States is a security net. It’s not. Pyongyang cannot do anything with its nuclear and military power. The only way it can survive is to follow the market opening leads of Vietnam or China. Without opening itself to the world, North Korea cannot prevent its implosion.