Monday, December 26, 2011

Kim Jong-Il's Death - Summary of Articles by Mr. Joo Seong-Ha

Here is one more introduction for those who have not been acquainted with Mr. Joo Seong-Ha.  Mr. Joo is a former North Korean elite, who attended Kim Il-Sung University and was a professor at the same university. He defected from North Korea in 1996, was captured in China and survived a North Korean gulag. He defected again in 1997, and this time he successfully reached South Korea. Now, he is a journalist for one of the most prestigious newspapers in South Korea. He also writes for his own blog, North Korea Real Talk, which is easily the most visited blog regarding North Korea in all of the Internet. The Korean periodically translated some of Mr. Joo's best articles. You can check out the entire archive of translated articles by Mr. Joo here.

As you might imagine, Mr. Joo has been a busy man since Kim Jong-Il died. Because Mr. Joo write a number of articles and posts since Kim Jong-Il's death, the Korean cannot translate all of them fully. Instead, the Korean will provide a summary of everything Mr. Joo has written so far, both for his newspaper and his blog.

Kim Jong-Il's Death:  Whither Korean Peninsula?
[김정일 사망, 한반도 어디로 가나?] (Dec. 19, 2011)

In the first piece he wrote after the news broke, Mr. Joo briefly noted that the first telltale sign will be the volume of defection. He also noted that there would not be much movement during the official funeral period, and the critical time will be around February or March 2012.

(More after the jump.)

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Dark Road Ahead for Post-Kim Jong-Il Era
[포스트 김정일 시대, 앞길은 절망적이다] (Dec. 19, 2011)

Mr. Joo actually wrote this article before Kim Jong-Il died, but he put the article up on the blog because the topic was relevant. In this article, Mr. Joo noted that North Korean regime so far has relied on five pillars:  (1) propaganda and deification; (2) closely knit organization; (3) reign of terror and guilt by association; (4) shutting off and distorting outside information; (5) special favors given to the loyal elite.

However, the massive famine in the early 1990s corroded four of the five pillars, such that the only pillar that is still intact is the reign of terror. Therefore, recently the reign of terror in North Korea has reached a new height. But because the presence of South Korea serves as a constant reminder for North Koreans as to what could have been, the desire to escape would only increase. Especially after Kim Jong-Il dies, Joo argued, North Korea would not be for long.

How North Koreans View Kim Jong-Un
[김정은 보는 북한 주민 심정 비유한다면] (Dec. 20, 2011)

This article is an absolute gem that only Mr. Joo is capable of writing. Upon watching the footages of North Korean people's initial reaction to Kim Jong-Il's death, Joo was shocked by how peaceful Pyongyang looked. This was in marked contrast to Kim Il-Sung's death. When the news of the elder Kim's death broke, ordinary North Koreans dropped to the ground and wailed. Much of the mourning was voluntary. But this time, even in a footage that North Korea must have carefully screened before its release, Mr. Joo only detected one or two people who appeared to be genuinely sad.

How Will the Bankrupt House Survive?
[거덜난 살림 물려주고 어떻게 버티라고] (Dec. 21, 2011)

Mr. Joo notes that the prevailing feeling by North Koreans about Kim Jong-Un is that of resignation. Although people complain of Kim Jong-Un's youth and lack of experience, there is no sign of an organized resistance. But one item of note is that hatred of Kim Jong-Un is spreading within the elite, as Kim Jong-Un has been ruthlessly purging the leadership class.

Mr. Joo points out that the current situation is different from Kim Jong-Il's succession, because, at the time, North Korean economy was still functional, and people supported Kim Il-Sung. As discussed in the previous article, Mr. Joo believes that Kim Jong-Un's only way by which he could manage the current situation is to engage in a reign of terror.

Kim Jong-Un's First Three Days Receives an F
[사흘간 지켜본 김정은 성적표는 '낙제'] (Dec. 22, 2011)

Mr. Joo notes that Kim Jong-Il's funeral would be the first test for Kim Jong-Un, because the funeral is an excellent opportunity for Kim Jong-Un to consolidate his status. When Kim Il-Sung died, Kim Jong-Il engaged in a number of creative policies that consolidated his power. For example, Kim Jong-Il was involved in every last detail of Kim Il-Sung's funeral, abolished the office of the Chairman (such that Kim Il-Sung would be the eternal chairman,) and generally pronounced that he was a filial son who was fit to inherit his father's legacy and rule the country. In contrast, Kim Jong-Un has been simply following the exact procedure that his father implemented when his grandfather died.

The Best Article about Kim Jong-Un's Future
[김정은의 미래를 점친 최고의 명칼럼] (Dec. 23, 2011)

This article is written by Sohn Gwang-Ju, head of the Center for Daily NK Reunification Strategies. Mr. Joo introduced this article by saying that it was the best one among everything he read about Kim Jong-Un in the last few days, and he generally agreed with the article.

In the article, Sohn begins by stating that it is pointless to speculate about whether Kim Jong-Un can succeed smoothly, because the succession is already a done deal. Sohn also points out that China would have a less influence than most people think, because North Korea consistently resisted China's interference in the political arena.

Sohn says Kim Jong-Un only has two choices -- destroy the market that is already in place, or open up the country. But Kim Jong-Un in fact cannot make either choice. Destroying the market would essentially require killing everybody in North Korea. If North Korea is opened up, there is no reason why North Korean people would follow Kim Jong-Un. Sohn then prescribes that South Korea's strategy must be "engagement" and "enlargement," in the areas of information, market, politics and military, in that order. Sohn concludes by castigating the current South Korean administration for getting caught flat footed at the news of Kim Jong-Il's death.

When Will We Hear Kim Jong-Un's Voice?
[김정은 목소리는 언제쯤 들을 수 있을까?] (Dec. 24, 2011)

Mr. Joo writes that Kim Jong-Un's ruling style will likely be similar to his father's ruling style. Just like his father, Kim Jong-Un strengthened his hold over the Security Bureau instead of the military or the Labor Party. Also, Kim Jong-Un's advisors have no experience in having any other kind of ruling style.

Like his father, Kim Jong-Un would likely minimize his exposure to the public. This is in contrast to Kim Il-Sung, who enjoyed being in public.

Will the "Market Generation" Eat Away at Kim Jong-Un Regime?
['장마당 세대' 김정은 체제 갉아먹을까] (Dec. 26, 2011)

Mr. Joo notes that the "Market Generation" -- i.e. North Koreans who were born in 1994, when Kim Il-Sung died -- would enter North Korean society next year, either by getting drafted into the military or advancing to colleges. Mr. Joo writes that North Korea officially recognizes four generations of revolution. The first generation was anti-Japanese fighters who fought alongside Kim Il-Sung; the second was the people who experienced Korean War and the post-war reconstruction; the third was the people who were involved in the Three Communes Movement in the 1970s, and the fourth was the people who underwent the March of Struggles in the 1990s.

The fifth generation does not have an official recognition, but they may be termed as the Market Generation, because the parents of this generation entirely relied on the market to raise them, as they grew up during the mass starvation that was the March of Struggles.

The Market Generation is characterized by a significant depletion of numbers and malnutrition. Compared to the 1980s, North Korea's fertility rate dropped by more than 30 percent. Because of the drop, North Korean military is essentially losing one battalion (= 50,000 soldiers) every year. Also, because of malnutrition, a significant number of these young people are being exempted from conscription. Although North Korean regime has been attempting to address this issue by, for example, drafting more women into the military, it appears inevitable that the military control over North Korea would be weakened simply because there are not enough soldiers.

This generation is also marked by being materialistic, selfish and scornful of organized life. This generation received absolutely nothing from the regime. In fact, schools have been turned into a vehicle for squeezing money out of people. Because of that, over 40 percent of North Korean children do not attend school. Instead, as soon as they are in their teens, they work in the market and earn their own money. Because they are not socialized through school, they do not respect their teachers or any other authority figure. They attempt to get out of serving their military duties by bribing their superiors.

The Market Generation is also wildly enthusiastic about South Korean pop culture. South Korean pop music and dance have spread to every rural corner of North Korea, thanks to the Market Generation. They openly complain that no one in their family is smart enough to defect to South Korea. Having the Market Generation make up the most of North Korean military, therefore, would put further pressure on Kim Jong-Un's regime.

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