Capitalism China & Korea Class Warfare Japan & Korea Resistance

How Kim Jong-un, China & the autumn gales set a death trap for North Korea’s fishermen

By now, you’ve probably seen the ghastly reports of boats from North Korea washing up against the Japanese coastline with the desiccated or skeletal remains of their crews. You’ve probably also read reports speculating about why. This post will sift through dozens of those reports, discard the theories that the evidence refutes, and assemble the …

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Capitalism Health & Disease Resistance Subversion

Prisoners of the People: N. Korea’s guerrilla society has political implications (updated)

Over the last year, I’ve become convinced that if technology can break the electronic barriers between North Korea and the Outer Earth, it would be possible to keep the broken promises of the Sunshine Policy by bypassing Pyongyang and engaging directly with the North Korean people. Governments, churches, and NGOs could harness markets, smuggling networks, …

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Border Control Capitalism Famine & Food Aid Sanctions

A blanket trade embargo won’t help us disarm or reform North Korea

In Wednesday’s post, I wrote about Beyond Parallel’s imagery analysis pointing to a decline in cross-border trade between China and North Korea, along with the limitations of that analysis and its great potential if expanded and focused. But I also alluded to a broader policy concern about the error of equating trade volume with sanctions …

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Capitalism Class Warfare Resistance

Preparations for North Korea’s party congress spur anger, resistance, and dissent

Over the last year, this site has closely tracked growing signs that North Korea’s elites are discontented with Kim Jong-un’s leadership and fearful of being purged, and of falling morale and discipline in the North Korean military. More recently, we’ve seen extraordinary outbreaks of dissent among North Korea’s overseas workers, including the group defection of 13 restaurant …

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Border Control Capitalism Class Warfare Famine & Food Aid Sanctions

So far, sanctions are cutting off Pyongyang’s cash while sparing North Korea’s poor.

A month after the President signed the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act and two weeks after the U.N. Security Council approved Resolution 2270, enough information has emerged from North Korea to allow for a preliminary assessment of how the sanctions are affecting those they are meant to target, and those they are meant to spare.  …

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Activism Capitalism Famine & Food Aid

Rev. Tim Peters is feeding N. Korea’s hungry, and showing us how to re-think food aid

The Rev. Tim Peters, a man who embodies everything I admire about the word “Christian,” leads the group Helping Hands Korea, which has been helping North Koreans escape for more than a decade. Now, he’s putting into action what I call “guerrilla engagement,” reaching inside North Korea covertly and helping its oppressed and starved classes achieve …

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Appeasement Border Control Capitalism Engagement Refugees Sunshine

Inter-Korean phone calls can keep the promises of the Sunshine Policy

Twenty years of state-to-state engagement between North and South Korea have not lived up to Kim Dae-Jung’s promises. Pyongyang has taken Seoul’s money, nuked up, and periodically attacked South Korea for good measure. Rather than reforming, it has invested heavily in sealing its borders. Pyongyang sustains itself on foreign hard currency, even as it cuts off …

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Border Control Capitalism Refugees

Seoul & Pyongyang join forces to fund N. Korea’s rich, starve its poor

Our endlessly unrequited vigil for North Korean reform continues: Hyeonseo Lee is also increasingly worried about her personal security since the July publication of the best-selling memoir about her escape from North Korea, “The Girl with Seven Names”. Defectors living in South Korea contact relatives in the North through Chinese mobile phones that are smuggled …

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Border Control Capitalism Censorship Class Warfare Engagement

The more North Korea trades, the more it reforms, right? Wrong.

Yesterday, I questioned the premises of economic engagement with Pyongyang — that Pyongyang is socialist, that trade is capitalism, that capitalism inexorably erodes socialism, and that capitalism (least of all, state capitalism) is inherently liberal and peaceful. I argued that Pyongyang adopted state capitalism decades ago, and that it has grown steadily more menacing and repressive ever since. It …

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Capitalism Human Trafficking NK Crime

In North Korea, prostitution used to be a survival strategy. Now, it’s just another racket.

The Great Famine of the 1990s changed North Korean society so profoundly that we are still trying to understand the breadth and depth of that change. During and after the famine, millions of North Koreans grasped at any survival strategy necessary to feed themselves. Those who did not change, and whom the state did not feed, died. For thousands of North Korean women, prostitution …

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Border Control Capitalism Health & Disease Subversion

Must read: Jieun Baek on how North Koreans beat the border blockade

Admittedly, Baek’s explanation of the North Korea’s guerrilla banking system isn’t the first I’ve read, it’s only the best: The next time Kevin talks to his mother, she asks him for $1,000. She gives Kevin a phone number. When he hangs up after about a minute, Kevin then calls that number and tells the stranger …

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Capitalism Resistance

Daily NK: Massive brawl in Musan market after traders resist confiscations

This may be the most significant known incident of anti-regime resistance by North Korean civilians since the Ajumma Rebellion that followed the 2009 currency confiscation: A massive brawl between Ministry of People’s Security [MPS] agents and vendors at a marketplace in Musan County last Friday has led to an urgent dispatch of county security and safety …

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Capitalism Reconstruction Regime Change Resistance Subversion

Guerrilla Engagement: A strategy for regime replacement and reconstruction in North Korea

~   1   ~ One day, either this President or the next one will awaken to the realization that the regime in Pyongyang is collapsing, and that he has just inherited the costliest, messiest, and riskiest nation-building project since the Marshall Plan. The collapse of North Korea will present South Korea — and by …

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Capitalism Famine & Food Aid

Markets, food, and trade: steps forward, leaps backward (Pts. 1, 2 & 3)

~   Part 1   ~ Do you still remember March, when the “May 30 measures” were the next wave of “drastic” perestroika that would change North Korea? Those measures were supposed to “give[] autonomy management of all institutions, companies, and stores,” including “control over production distribution and trade from the state to factories and businesses,” …

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