Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ask a Korean! News: Kim Jong-Il Spurns Jimmy Carter, Visits China

North Korea is turning to a very interesting direction. Former president Jimmy Carter is visiting North Korea to spring out Aijalon Gomes, an American who illegally entered North Korea. (On a side note -- can people please stop doing this? First, the two dumb journalists. Then the missionary Robert Park. Why can't people understand that North Korea is just about the worst country to enter illegally?)

But incredibly, Kim Jong-Il spurned Jimmy Carter and decided to visit China instead. What the heck is going on? In all situations involving North Korea, the best source is always -- Mr. Joo Seong-Ha of Nambuk Story. Below is his take:

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In examining Kim Jong-Il's China visit, the correct analysis is that he first selected Changchun as the meeting place with Shi Jin-Ping and visited Yukmun Middle School in Jilin in his spare time, not the other way around. [TK: Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il's father, worked as a secretary at Yukmun Middle School.] Today's morning papers seem to think that the visit to the middle school was about legitimizing the succession to Kim Jong-Un. But Yukmun Middle School is not some great North Korean holy site, nor is it important enough for Kim Jong-Il that he must visit before he dies. It is just not the place that has enough value or meaning to demonstrate the succession's legitimacy to the world. There are many other sites that have about the same weight.

Once the business is concluded in Changchun, the likely path is to return to North Korea by going through Tumen, reaching Hamgyeongbuk-do, as the media has generally reported.

Why Changchun? Why did Kim Jong-Il set out to visit the three northeastern provinces of China? Many analyze that it was to have Kim Jong-Un recognized, but I do not believe that is the case. Nominating Kim Jong-Un in North Korea is enough; it is incorrect to think that the visit was designed to take Kim Jong-Un to be recognized by China. North Korea is not yet at a place in which it is so politically enslaved by China such that it cannot nominate its own successor.

The theory that the visit was to ask for economic aid is more persuasive. It would be strange for Kim Jong-Il to make a trip to China and not beg. Let us suppose the Party Representatives Meeting in September will be the chance to nominate Kim Jong-Un, and let us analogize this to a big party. The feast needs to be ready and the music has to be played, but North Korea has nothing in its hands.

To minimize North Korean people's resistance to Kim Jong-Un, the regime needs to at least provide rationing and give an impression that something is changing. Even Kim Jong-Il would feel that it would not work if the people are demanded to devote their loyalty to Kim Jong-Un without any change with only their thumb to suck on.

But China will not provide aid that easily. So far from observation, China has given hug lip service to North Korea, calling it "blood-allies" and acting as if it would cut off its own flesh to help, but has acted miserly when it comes to economic aid. The most generous aid so far is about several tens of million dollars. (Given that, South Korea did give a whole lot to North Korea.)

So Kim Jong-Il must give something in exchange. What is there to give? At this point, we should think about why Kim headed to Changchun and Jilin, not Beijing. The first thing that comes to mind is the North Korean aid following the development of Chang-Ji-Tu. [TK: Changchun-Jilin-Tumen.] Kim already visited Changchun and Jilin, so if he goes through Tumen he will have made a Chang-Ji-Tu pilgrimage. Chang-Ji-Tu development can only happen completely if it is connected to Rajin-Seonbong development [TK: in North Korea].

There are causes to turn one's attention to Rajin-Seonbong. For over a year, there has been some preparation (although unclear as to exactly what that is) in Rajin-Seonbong since Kim Jong-Il last visited. Also, Park Bong-Ju has returned to power recently. [TK: Park has been an advocate for economic reform.]

At this point, North Korea has only land, minerals or rights to give. They might also be able to pretend opening up. As long as North Korea does not collapse, China will tolerate North Korea's nuclear weapon or having North Korea succeeded by Kim Jong-Un or any three-year-old. That comports with its greatest interest.

So it is not as if Kim Jong-Un cannot inherit the throne without China's permission. So what if China does not permit? Will China try to collapse North Korea or something? Such thing will not happen, especially considering that Kim Jong-Il will be willing to do just about anything in order to maintain his regime. It would not matter to him that millions die of starvation, nor would it matter to him that he handed over a large chunk of North Korean territory. If cornered, Kim Jong-Il will not hesitate to sell out his country to China.

So far, Kim Jong-Il has been wary of China, trying as much as he can to resist China's influence over North Korea. This is not out of any sense of patriotism, but out of preventing the threat of reform to his regime. But if cornered, this can all change. If the regime can survive for one more year at the brink of collapse, Kim will not care if North Korea became China's colony.
If this visit bears fruit, Kim Jong-Il would have sent a message to South Korea -- "Look, you think I can't live without you?"

From North Korean people's perspective, they cannot help but expect some change resulting from Carter's visit and Kim Jong-Il's visit to China. This is because there was a big change after Carter's last visit, resulting in the Inter-Korea summit. North Korean propaganda machine will broadcast to its people that Carter brought a message implying a very significant policy change in America, and the regime is considering whether or not to accept it. It would point out that former president of America of the Democratic Party is politely waiting in Pyongyang while Kim Jong-Il is taking care of business in China, which boosts the greatness of Dear Leader. On top of that, if Kim Jong-Il manages to (for example) bring a large-scale joint venture at Rajin-Seonbong from China, the dissatisfied North Koreans would go into the September meeting with some level of ancitipation for the better.

All this would make a pretty good atmospherics for the September Representative Meeting. If the country had something, it could give something to the people; but without nothing, it is a decent haul to have some good atmosphere.

Of course, there is high likelihood that the China visit would not be limited to creating atmosphere. Kim Jong-Il might try to use the visit as a pragmatic opportunity to make something happen for Kim Jong-Un's succession. The 2-3 years after Kim Jong-Un is nominated is the most perilous. During this time, if the regime manages to put on a show by going on a big project with China, the people may endure the circumstances with the hope that Kim Jong-Un is leading the reform. In short, it will earn the time to solidify Kim Jong-Un's succession while distracting the people's dissatisfaction toward Kim Jong-Un by anticipation. This time is golden for Kim Jong-Il.

But as I mentioned, China is a selfish country that does not move without profit. Unlike Korea, North Korea cannot just pretend to do things in front of the merchants of China. Our focus should be: What will Kim Jong-Il give up to China for his benefit?

The unusual destination of Changchun is eye-catching. Of course, this may not necessarily be something worrisome. Opening up Rajin-Seonbong alone would compel North Korea to step into the irresistible trend that North Korea has feared so much thus far. Everything will become clear by the end of Kim Jong-Il's China visit. Was it just for creating atmosphere, or is it more meaningful, pregnant with something significant for the future? This is not the first or second time we were disappointed after we anticipated something.

김정일 중국서 잔치 부조금 얼마나 받아올까 [Nambuk Story]

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  1. Two words: Carter Curse.

    That smiling peanut farmer is a stone-cold killer and KJI got out of Dodge as quickly as he could.

  2. North Korea probably isn't that bad of a place to enter illegally as an American. Crossing into the wrong part of a stateless country like Somalia, Afghanistan or Pakistan is probably far more dangerous.


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