Posted by: rbbadger | December 3, 2008

South Korean propaganda ballooons

Relations between North Korea and South Korea have reached all times lows.  The current administration of Lee Myeong-bak has halted the Sunshine Policy of former presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.  It seemed for a while that South Korea was willing to give North Korea just about anything.  The current administration wants some accountability and the North has reacted badly to this.  At the same time that they are seeking to curry favour with Obama, they are cutting ties to the South.  Rail links between the two countries have severed and the North seems ready and willing to close the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

The Gaeseong Industrial Complex was where South Korean companies did light manufacturing.  South Korean businesses could save even more than they could by manufacturing in China, though everything made in Gaeseong is banned in the United States of America under the provisions of the Trading With the Enemy Act.  It was attractive to many South Korean businesses, owing to the fact that the workers speak the same language and share a similar culture.  While the jobs are by no means well paying, they are better paying than most other jobs in North Korea are.  Jobs in Gaeseong were (and are) highly prized. 

One of the things that has really enraged the North are the propaganda balloons that a volunteer group has been sending northwards.  These balloons are filled with all sorts of propaganda denouncing Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il.  Both figures are seen as practically deities in North Korea.  Indeed, even foreign tourists, upon visiting Pyeongyang, are generally expected to bow to a huge statue of Kim Il-sung which dominates central Pyeongyang.  These leaflets have greatly enraged North Korea. 

It is easy to take the existence of North Korea for granted here.  But every so often, they like to do things like this to remind us in the South that they still think about us often.  The North Korean won is one of the most useless forms of currency in existence.  The North Korean government has been desperate to get their hands on any foreign exchange they can.  And wonder of wonders, they’re going to cut off one of the main sources of that!

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