North Korea: the big cage where people live
There is a country in the world that is unlike any other. It is the DPRK. Some people loathe it wildly, others, on the contrary, almost love it. How to feel about it is a personal matter. But North Korea is absolutely unique even from a historical point of view. There has never been such a “preservation” of so many people before. One day and probably fairly soon it will be gone, at least in its current form. And that’s a pretty good reason to visit Korea.
1. one country, two ways
There are now two Koreas in the world, and both are unique in their own way. One has made an incredible technological leap: Hyundai, Samsung, LG, professional cyber athletes are all South, or the Republic of Korea. The other is North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and things are very different there. No international companies, as almost the entire market is ruled by the state in the person of the Labor Party of Korea. Resources are mined not on Starcraft maps and not in MMORPG, but in uranium mines with pickaxes. Today they are two different worlds that were once one. So a little history.
Korea officially considers the founding date to be 2333 B.C. Tangun, the son of a celestial man and a female-turned-bear, founded the first state of Joseon. It was commonplace in Asia – China’s history begins about the same way. The modern borders were formed in the 10th century AD, and that state was called Goryeo (closer to the point, so to speak). Then the classic processes took place: wars, coups, fragmentation, seizures and the struggle for independence.
Let’s move on to the point of partition of Korea. It was 1945. Japan, which had conquered Korea, had received a noble beating: on the one hand, American atomic bombs of peace and freedom, on the other – Soviet bayonets, with equality and fraternity. Since the Japanese empire was beaten together, its former colony was decided to be divided fair and square, i.e. along the 38th parallel, almost in half.
Incredible but true. The initial starting position of North Korea was better: most of the industry was located in the North, Soviet specialists somehow organized medical and educational institutions, and in general they helped a lot with money. In the first years after the partition, refugees came from the South to the North, and in the Republic of Korea (South) itself, there were quite a few Communist sympathizers. They were mercilessly crushed, by the way. It is now that we know the Republic as something cuddly, soft and fluffy. It was born with a beastly grin and without any democracy. For sympathizing with communism, they repressed in kind, up to and including the death penalty. Some prisoners of conscience were jailed for 30-40 years, and only at the end of the zeros were they sent to the North. However, the northerners did not reciprocate. Most likely, none of the captured southerners lived to see that time.
Five years after the separation, a war broke out, claiming the lives of about a million people. Why roughly? Because Korea – nothing is known for sure. The war lasted from 1950 to 1953, but that’s in theory. In fact, the war was not officially declared over by either side, and local skirmishes took place regularly. For example, the Cannes incident in 1996. A DPRK submarine landed a sabotage group on Southern territory. It seems to have been a forced landing, as if the submarine had run aground, but what was it doing there anyway? The incident resulted in the death of all but one crew member and all but one member of the sabotage group. The South lost 16 fighters and 8 civilians, and the sabotage group walked around the Republic of Korea for almost a month and a half.
Gradually, the South’s standard of living began to rise and the North’s, not so much to fall, but rather to remain in place. Thus, by the 1990s, the difference exceeded all acceptable limits. The industry, the pride of the North, was hopelessly outdated, and North Korea was a mountainous country, with not much fertile land, and famine broke out in the early 1990s. The fact of the famine itself is credible, but no one knows even an approximate number of deaths. The difference in numbers is as follows: the official DPRK authorities admit 10 thousand dead as a result of sanctions and crop failure, independent sources speak of figures of 300 thousand, a million and even 3 million. The latter sounds unlikely, because it is about 15% of the population, but the famine was indeed massive.
2. a Fragment of the Soviet Union
North Korea is the epitome of a dictatorship: power is inherited, the country has one ruling party, although there are two more – absolutely puppet and representing nothing of themselves. In case you’re wondering, here are their names: the Young Friends of the Heavenly Way Party, the Social Democratic Party of Korea, and the ruling Labor Party of Korea. By the way, both Koreas agree that the country is united and cannot be divided, but they see the future differently. At the last Olympic Games, a unified Korean team competed under a common flag of a unified Korea.
North Korea cannot be called a third world country; its backwardness is artificial. A simple example: North Korea is a space superpower. This status means that the country has its own spacecraft/satellites, its own means of delivery to orbit and its own spaceport. The North has all this. Do you know how many such countries there are in the world? Nine, just nine of them. On top of that, Korea has nuclear weapons. It’s unclear how many and what level, but it’s definitely there, presumably 10 to 30 warheads. North Korea mined bitcoins on an industrial scale, created a replica of the famous Federal Reserve machine, and printed fake dollars of the highest quality. It was one of the important points of supplementing the country’s budget. And why not? Such are the counter-sanctions. Seems fair.
There is also a kind of gulag system in North Korea. Naturally, this is denied by official Pyongyang, but so did the Soviet Union, which denied political repression. No one knows how it all works. Some information leaks from defectors, some is known thanks to satellite images and the network of agents. According to domestic Korean historian Andrei Lankov, all camps are divided into two types. One is for common criminals, they are called “decree No.149 areas”. Apparently, these are districts for special settlers. Roughly speaking, if a person messed up, they send him far away to the mountains. He has to felling timber and digging ore – there’s no other work. One cannot leave such areas until the period of re-education is over. After that, the rule of 23 kilometers applies: an ex-convict has no right to settle near big cities, less than 23 kilometers away. In the realities of North Korea, this means that he will stay there in the mountains, in the areas where the rule applies.
For political prisoners, the conditions are stricter – such camps are called “special areas of dictatorial objects. Just say the name out loud, make sense of it. These special districts are also divided into two subgroups. To simplify, there are those from which a person can get out at the end of his term, and there are those from which a person will never get out again.
Concentration camps are fairly large protected areas in the middle of nowhere, usually between mountains. If the UN reports are to be believed, they hold about 200,000 people. You can find these camps on Google maps – the quality of the pictures is not so good, but you can really make out fences, guard towers, big barracks, and it’s all in the middle of nowhere. If you’re interested, you can read the book or listen to it on audio – it’s called “Escape from the Death Camp”. The author, a defector from the DPRK, claims to have been born in such a camp, and describes just hellish things. Either post in the comments that you’d like to read a short article about it here.
The only relatively modern city in North Korea is the capital city of Pyongyang. Wide avenues, tall houses, public transportation, good sports fields, and of course the subway. The city of celestials has modern shopping malls, and there’s even the Internet! Not all mortals, of course, but Google Trends says that people in Pyongyang watch porn and use Google itself. For everyone else, there is the local network Gwangmyeong (Red Star), a sort of censored Wikipedia with forums and chat rooms. It is not possible to connect to it from the outside, though it would be interesting.
The average person from the provinces can’t move to this miracle city – there used to be an outright ban on travel. Come to think of it, you don’t have the right to travel freely in your own country – how about that? Now there’s no direct prohibition, but to move, you have to live somewhere. You can’t buy an apartment, you can only get one from the government, and you can’t afford to live in a hotel. The average salary in North Korea is about $100. This is the official figure. According to Korean historians, the real salary is around $30. So it turns out: No one chooses their parents and no one chooses to move to Pyongyang – you can only be born there.
This is how North Korea should be perceived: the unrecognized Korean Soviet Socialist Republic. A fragment of the USSR that is still alive and even developing.
3. The course of perestroika
For the past few years, the course towards integration into the world system has been obvious. However, this is only possible if the world accepts North Korea as it is. That is, with nuclear weapons, a dictatorship, and other corners. In any case, these guys will never give up nuclear weapons. They will eat bark and grass, but they will not give up the bombs. By the way, geopoliticians of all stripes love to talk about independent countries, such as those have bent, these have sold out, and so on. As a result, the picture of the world for these experts consists of Russia, the U.S. and China. Everyone else, in their opinion, is under someone. But what about the DPRK? Definitely a fully independent state. At what cost? At a very high cost. Perhaps fatally expensive. But now North Korea is one of the truly and completely independent countries.
The DPRK is changing slowly, but the changes are visible. The borders are slowly opening up. There are now several official travel agencies and several types of tours, from “just to see Pyongyang” to mountain or sea resorts. Speaking of resorts and communism. They have a seaside resort, the city of Wonsan, and there’s a highway to it from the capital. Well, there’s a toll road from the capital. The country seems to be the people’s, the road seems to have been built by the people, communism and all that, but you have to pay to get there. Some kind of wrong kind of communism again – bring a new one.
In Korea, the era of private enterprise is dawning. It sounds strange, too, but it’s pretty complicated. You can’t just open a sole proprietorship and become a businessman, but you can make a deal with the officials and open some kind of coffee shop or barbershop. According to the documents it will belong to the state, but in fact it will be private. For this, of course, you have to pay tax, unofficially. Everyone knows about this system, and it is encouraged by the leadership of the country. So are the “black markets” where you can buy imports. Just like in our country in the late 80’s: jeans, of course, have not yet reached, but movie disks and even flash drives with games can already be obtained.
We can conclude that the government is getting ready to switch to the Chinese system, but for now it’s just watching. At least let the people do something, as long as they don’t starve to death.
Perhaps this change was triggered by the attempted coup d’etat in 1995. During the big famine, the 6th Corps of the Korean People’s Army revolted. The corps moved toward the capital in almost full strength and with military equipment. The remaining units remained loyal to the command. All the commanders of the 6th Corps were executed, and the corps itself was disbanded. But this is not certain. There is only circumstantial evidence: the corps really ceased to exist, and some commanders stopped appearing at military parades.
The DPRK’s restructuring and economic breakthrough is in the interest of the whole of Korea-unification is impossible without it. Here’s a look. Germany was divided into two parts; by the end of the 1980s, the standard of living between the West and the East differed by a factor of three, a gap that has not been completely eliminated to this day. The difference in living standards between the two parts of Korea reaches 19-30 times – some experts think it’s impossible to compare at all. The northerners consume much less of everything, but that’s half the trouble. The people in the North are several generations behind the South. That is 25 million people live in the reality of the middle of the last century. This is at best. It’s not uncommon for defectors to return to the DPRK, or to settle accounts with their lives, despite the provision of social housing and benefits. People are simply unable to fit into modern society, even the languages are already very different. Roughly speaking, a high-class engineer from the North is not needed in the South. His skills are useless, he doesn’t even understand half the words in his field. Literally, it’s “from princely to filthy”. Here you are a cage, but in it you are a high-class specialist; there you are free, but there you are a laborer.
One day the DPRK regime will fall, like any dictatorship or monarchy. A successor will be born defective or simply grow up to be a freethinker, educated abroad. But the fall of the regime does not mean the unification of Korea. One reason has already been voiced – the gap is too serious, and the South cannot pull 25 million practically useless people and half the country without normal infrastructure.
There’s another reason: no one in the world benefits from Korean unification. Come to think of it, the South is very economically developed, has international corporations, has a positive image on the international stage; the North has nuclear weapons, a space program and a nearly free labor force. If combined, it could eventually develop into a regional superpower.
THE KOREAN PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (KDR) (NORTH KOREA)
THE KOREAN PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (DPRK or North Korea), a country in East Asia. It was proclaimed on September 9, 1948.
Partition of Korea.
In the Cairo Declaration of 1943, the U.S., Britain, and China declared that in the future “Korea will be free and independent.” The U.S. and USSR agreed that Korea would be divided along the 38th parallel into the northern and southern zones in order to more effectively surrender the Japanese army. In August 1945 Soviet troops entered Korea. U.S. forces landed in southern Korea in September 1945.
A joint Soviet-American commission, which met in Seoul in March 1946 to discuss the details of an interim government for all of Korea, failed to reach an agreement satisfactory to both sides. A second round of meetings of that commission in 1947 also yielded no results. In September 1947, the U.S. raised the issue of Korean independence before the U.N. General Assembly, which adopted a resolution calling for elections under U.N. supervision. But the Soviet side refused to let UN representatives into North Korea, so the May 10, 1948, elections were held only in the South. The U.S. military administration terminated its functions on August 15, 1948, when the Republic of Korea (ROK) was proclaimed, with Lee Seungman becoming its first president.
The administration of North Korea was handed over to the Korean Communists, and an interim government was formed in early 1946. After elections to the supreme legislative body on September 9, 1948, the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), headed by Prime Minister Kim Il-sung, was announced. The establishment of the new regime and the withdrawal of Soviet troops led to the rapid formation of North Korean military units. In the South, the formation of the armed forces was slower. The military uprising of October 1948, supported by the pro-communist opposition, on the wave of popular discontent, gave rise to difficulties. The evacuation of the U.S. army ended in June 1949. The following year, North and South Korea engaged in strengthening their military capabilities.
In May 1950, elections were held for the South Korean parliament. Although the ultra-left parties were outlawed, many radicals stood on their own as independent candidates and won 60% of the seats. The Lee Seungman government responded with repression, forcing many newly elected members of parliament to flee to North Korea.
The Korean War.
On June 25, 1950, fierce fighting broke out along the entire demarcation line. It soon became apparent that the North Korean army was outnumbering its enemy. A full-scale offensive by the North Koreans led to the fall of Seoul on the fifth day of the war. Meanwhile, at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, North Korea was condemned as the aggressor and ordered to withdraw its troops. When this call was ignored, U.S. President Harry Truman ordered U.S. military units to engage in combat operations; the British government did likewise. The U.N. troops (composed of units from South Korea, the United States, the British Commonwealth and other countries) launched a counteroffensive, and as early as November they succeeded in reaching the boundary of the Amnokkan River. The Chinese army came to the aid of the North Koreans, and the armed forces acting on behalf of the UN were pushed southward. Eventually, after heavy fighting, the line of fire was reestablished along the 38th parallel and remained stable for two years while a peace was negotiated. An armistice agreement was formally concluded on July 27, 1953.
The war brought incalculable calamities to the Korean people. Apart from huge losses among civilians, the number of killed and wounded in the UN troops, according to the military commandment, was nearly 350,000, and in the North Korean army – more than 1.5 million people.
The DPRK after 1953
The three-year development plan (1954-1956) led to the restoration of the pre-war level of production. The Five-Year Plan (1957-1961) laid the groundwork for the “leap forward” envisaged by the Seven-Year Plan (1961-1967), which was actually completed in 1970. The serious labor shortage was partially overcome by the repatriation of more than 80,000 Koreans from Japan. During the first seven-year period, industrial output increased markedly, but the plan’s targets were delayed. In 1971, it began to implement a six-year plan in which emphasis was laid on technical progress and the rise of agriculture. Already in the early 1960s, North Korea began to divert its revenues to the military, which led to a slowdown in economic growth. The second seven-year plan (1978-1984) was implemented late. North Korea did not start implementing the third seven-year plan until 1987. Although the DPRK rapidly expanded trade and diplomatic contacts with the non-Communist world in the early 1970s, these ties faded after it defaulted on several loans in the middle of the decade. Relations with the USSR and China were not stable either. In 1961 North Korea concluded friendship treaties with both states, but after the Soviet-Chinese conflict it supported China. The orientation towards China was clearly visible at the end of the 1970s, but in the next decade it was drawn closer to the USSR.
North Korea saw the U.S. military presence in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula as the main obstacle to the unification of the Korean people. Relations with the U.S. deteriorated in January 1968, when North Korea seized the U.S. Navy’s reconnaissance ship, the Pueblo. Tensions eased somewhat in the early 1970s, after the withdrawal of the U.S. division and the start of preliminary talks (1971).
In 1972 Kim Il Sung was elected President of the DPRK. In 1980, his son Kim Jong Il, who had to endure a clash for future power with his half-brother Kim Peng-il in the early 1980s, was recognized as semi-official successor. This led to several campaigns of purges in the Party and military leadership. Since 1984 Kim Jong Il was formally listed as his father’s successor.
In October 1983, North Korean intelligence agents assassinated four members of the ROK cabinet in the Burmese capital of Rangoon, and yet in 1985 delegations from the two Korean states sat down for talks that eventually led to both countries being admitted to the UN. Under an agreement ratified in 1992, North Korea and South Korea agreed to refrain from mutual attacks, develop economic and other cooperation, and promote family unification.
The DPRK in the late 20th century. – early 21st century.
After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, China remained the DPRK’s only serious ally. Attempts to improve relations with the United States and Japan were unsuccessful because the DPRK government did not allow international inspectors to enter North Korean nuclear facilities. In March 1993, the DPRK announced its intention to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which it had ratified in 1985. In June 1993, the DPRK agreed not to withdraw from the Treaty, but declared that imposition of sanctions by Japan and the United States would be regarded as a declaration of war. Negotiations with the United States in October 1994 resulted in an agreement on inspections and modernization of nuclear power plants.
Kim Il Sung passed away in July 1994, and in October 1994 his son Kim Jong Il became president and head of the Labor Party of Korea.
There were severe floods in 1995 and 1996, and a year of severe drought followed in 1997, which led to serious problems in agriculture. The priority for national resource allocation was given to the army. The country is still dependent on foreign countries for the supply of agricultural products.
In March 2009, Kim Jong Il took part in national elections. He was unanimously elected to the DPRK parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly. In April 2009 he was confirmed as chairman of the country’s National Defense Committee.
In September 2010 was held a party conference of the Workers’ Party of Korea, where Kim Jong Il was again elected general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Kim Jong-il died December 17, 2011, of a heart attack while traveling by train. He was succeeded by his youngest son Kim Jong-un on December 31, 2011.
North Korea’s nuclear program
As early as the 1950s the DPRK, with the help of the USSR, began preparations to build the country’s nuclear capabilities in response to the very real American threat of a nuclear attack. An atomic energy research institute was established and training of scientists began. In the 1970s, practical work began on the development of a nuclear program.
Nevertheless, in 1974 North Korea joined the IAEA and made a proposal to give up testing, production, storage and importation of nuclear weapons. IAEA inspectors were allowed into the country. In 1985 DPRK also joined the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons).
Under pressure from the United States, the IAEA adopted a “resolution on special inspection”, which was to carry out inspections, including at military facilities of the DPRK, which had nothing to do with the nuclear program. In 1993 the country began the procedure for withdrawing from the NPT, and in 1994 it withdrew from the IAEA. Later it was decided to suspend the withdrawal procedure. The DPRK had to resume its obligations under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA.
In 1994, the DPRK and the Clinton administration agreed to create a mechanism for freezing and dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. In exchange, the U.S. promised to assist in the production of two nuclear power reactors and supplies of fuel oil, as well as other economic assistance. On October 21, 1994, a Framework Agreement on resolving the North Korean nuclear problem was signed between North Korea and the United States. It provided for freezing North Korea’s nuclear program.
With the arrival of President George W. Bush, relations between the U.S. and North Korea deteriorated sharply. The U.S. accused Pyongyang that the DPRK was enriching uranium and building facilities necessary to manufacture nuclear weapons. Bush called North Korea one of the “axis of evil” countries (along with Iraq and Iran). The U.S. suspended supplies of fuel for DPRK power plants. Pyongyang accused the U.S. of failing to fulfill its obligations under the Framework Agreement.
In this regard, in late 2002, the government of Kim Jong Il announced the resumption of its nuclear program, which had been frozen under the Framework Agreement of 1994, and expelled the IAEA inspectors.
In early January 2003 the DPRK decided to withdraw from the NPT (the withdrawal resolution was adopted back in 1993), explaining this decision by the need to protect the country’s national interests. Russia expressed concern over North Korea’s decision to withdraw from the NPT. North Korea noted its readiness for a constructive dialogue, should an agreement be signed with the US on providing DPRK with security guarantees.
A series of six-party talks began in 2003, involving the United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan, as G. Bush refused to meet with Kim Jong Il and insisted on a multilateral meeting format. Several rounds of talks were held in 2003 and 2004, but to little avail.
In 2006 the DPRK announced a successful underground nuclear bomb test. In the same year several missiles were launched, but all of them fell in international waters. In 2009, nuclear tests were also conducted. The United States imposed sanctions against North Korea.
In early February 2013, the U.S. and South Korea conducted military exercises on South Korean territory. The DPRK accused the U.S. of preparing for nuclear war in this way, which violated the armistice agreement between the DPRK and South Korea. On March 7, the DPRK made a statement about a “preventive nuclear strike.
Following the exercises in February, the DPRK conducted a nuclear test. On March 7, 2013, the UN Security Council met and unanimously decided to impose sanctions on North Korea. In response, North Korea made a statement about unilateral cancellation of the non-aggression agreements with South Korea.
Martynov V.V. Economic and Geographic Characteristics of the DPRK and South Korea . Moscow, 1970 Modern Korea. Reference book. M., 1971 The History of Korea, vol.1-2. M., 1974 Bolshov I.G., Toloraya G.D. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Moscow, 1987 Korea. Reference book . Seoul, 1993 Lankov A. N. North Korea: yesterday and today. M., 1995 Gorely I. O. Korea: The Concept of Unification. Moscow, 1997 Lankov A. Korea: everyday life and vacations. М., 2000
The last king of Babylon had a vision of a hand scrawling the mysterious words “mene, tekel, uparsin” on the wall of the hall where he was feasting. What did these words portend?