Sunday, June 03, 2007

Help the Average Person? Unlikely

North Korea signals goal of raising living standards

According to the above article, North Korea is supposedly transitioning from a "Army First" year to a year of helping average people. The idea is that now since North Korea has been successful in creating it's nuclear weapon program, it can focus on the economy and raising the living standards of the people. The article states that many people live on monthly wages of just $3-$6, and participate in small markets buying surplus from farmers that the Government turns a blind eye towards, allowing some people to make $25/month.

However, the government has not stated how they are going to accomplish this goal, apart from starting to build a few apartment buildings that will only house a few hundred people. In fact, the only response to how this goal will be met is "More Discipline!" I may not be an economist, but one thing I know that controlling people does not automatically lead to economic prosperity. The socialist system is obviously not working for the benefit of the poor. I think the government should take a hint from the mini capitalist version of the small markets. I think that the whole idea of the government switching from a military first position to a people position is unvalidated. I wouldn't be surprised if the propaganda for the nuclear weapons in the country included how these developments will help the people, but I highly doubt this will become a reality.


Tom Fales said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Fales said...

Wow I'm having trouble remembering all the comments I made aloud when reading this article. Here are a couple of them.

First, I found this line hilariously ironic: "'Our nuclear weapons are a source of great pride in our country, and if anyone insults us now, they won't survive,' said Son,... [a] worker at the International Friendship Museum..."

My next point can be made well enough simply by juxtaposing the following quotes from the story:

"...government minder Lee Gun Chol said...'[Socialism] is a better system than capitalism...'"

"'The average salary might be $3 to $6 a month, but if they engage in [covert]trading or market activities, that can be pushed up to $25 a month,' De Margerie said."

I also found the wording of the last sentence in the following propaganda spot especially interesting: "'It is necessary to bring about a revolutionary turn ... in the efforts to improve living standards,' major state-run papers reported in a Jan. 1 editorial, North Korea's equivalent of a State of the Union address. 'This is the most important task devolved upon the Korean people at present.'"

According to Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the North Korea representative for the U.N. World Food Program, "There's a lot of talk about more food, housing, consumer goods, but when you say, 'How are you going to do this?' their only response is 'more discipline."

I think these two statements indicate that the government may be 1) prepared for these goals to not be realized and 2)setting the stage to potentially blame the North Korean citizenry for said failure. Think about it; the editorial said that responsibility for the initiative rests with the "Korean people", not the so-called "Dear Leader". "More discipline" is the state's plan to achieve it, and surely this doesn't apply to the ruling class.

When the results don't match up with the rhetoric down the line, look for Kim Jong Il's cronies to blame the people, saying they didn't sacrifice enough.

Ally said...

For me, this is one example of a situation that makes me question our role in all of this. The West in always trying to send funds and volunteers and aid to countries that we think need it. North Korea obvioulsy won't let any of that happen, and NGOs are our of the question in that country. Am I being SUCH an American by wondering "Well, who's gonna save North Korea?" ?!?! I'm sure the poverty level in North Korea is even worse than we know. But it is due to such fundamental flaws in the government that it seems almost irreprable. Whar is the US's rightful place in all this? Will North Korea ever let outside help in, and if they do, will it accomplish anything?