Thursday, March 03, 2005


The latest version of this frequently used trope is advocated by the Mansfield Center's Weston Konishi
Under the present circumstances, the idea of expanding—not cutting off—Japan’s economic ties with North Korea sounds outlandish to say the least (and it is suggested with that caveat fully in mind). But, done in the right way, expanding economic ties with the North would be vastly more threatening to Kim Jong Il than squeezing off the estimated 27 billion yen of trade that annually trickles its way between North Korea and Japan.

If Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi really wanted to punish Pyongyang, he could announce a major new economic development initiative for North Korea, with the ultimate aim of catapulting the North into the information age. Japan’s initiative would include a massive program to provide computers and high-speed Internet access to every household in North Korea. The only condition would be that, unlike the North-South industrial park in Kaesong, the project would have to be available to all North Korean households across the country.
Why would Japan want to do such a thing? Becuase it would bring about the end of North Korea!
If all this seems like more than North Korea deserves, consider what it would mean to Kim Jong Il’s regime. Nothing, save a military invasion, would be as threatening to the regime as a sudden influx of information and the empowerment of its people through the Internet. Like similar regimes, the stability of Kim Jong Il’s government depends on the restriction of free speech and the tight control of information.

Widespread access to the Internet in North Korea would immediately erode the regime’s ability to control information and public debate. Citizens would be exposed, for the first time in a generation, to information about the outside world and how much better off it is than North Korea. Kim Jong Il’s carefully crafted cult of personality would be dismantled, as North Koreans learned that their leader is not revered but ridiculed around the world. Perhaps best of all, North Koreans could find out for themselves about the true nature of their regime and its depraved abduction of Japanese nationals throughout the years.
I have entertained my own versions of this approach. They usually involve Bush visiting P'yongyang and essentially abasing himself before Kim Jong-il, apologizing to the North Korean people, and offering all sorts of aid, education, and trade to thhe DPRK. If accepted, this probably would be the beginning of the end of North Korea and the Kim Jong-il regime as we know it. And of course that is the problem with all of these proposals. Kim isn't stupid. He knows that opening North Korea's doors is curtains for him and for the system of juche-deification of Kim Il Sung and his descendants. So why would he ever accept such an offer? Konishi reaches the same conclusion, albeit for different reasons.
Of course, this scenario stands little chance of ever reaching reality. Even before North Korea’s recent announcement, Tokyo was too angry to offer such a deal and Pyongyang too paranoid to accept one. But the other reality is that Japan’s “stick” of economic sanctions against North Korea is actually more like a twig—unlikely to produce results beyond the gratification of further isolating an already reclusive regime. All the more gratifying, though, would be shining the spotlight on Kim Jong Il every time he turned down a “carrot” that helped his own people.

I've made a very similar argument to yours, mostly on HNN. At the very least we should separate humanitarian aid from technological and economic aid, and flood them with enough basic food and medical supplies that the regime's use of its powers of distribution to punish and control are greatly diminished.

Not to mention the implicit value of showing that the rest of the world has plenty of food, medicine, etc., to spare.
I think that the approach of increasing telecommunications is a good idea on paper, but would be rejected point blank by KJI and his regime. I just returned from a trip to DPRK in mid-February, and so how intimately linked the reverence of all things Kim is with the strict control of the information flow. People have so little idea about the outside world, that they are easily duped into passively accepting what they have. It is tricky, though, to get information broadcast into the country. The current climate in DPRK bring suspicion upon anyone who is linked to foreigners and foreign technology. Look out for the folly in suggestions of radio drops, force-feeding internet etc.

For those in the mood for a first-hand account of DPRK, click through to (pardon the self-promotion, but in the true spirit of KJI I like to talk things up).
I am hoping you will share your story.
kindness lds
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