The big news item of late has been the sinking of the Cheonan, a patrol ship watching the area near North Korea. The news media has been reporting that the experts think that it was quite possibly a torpedo. It seems that the theory that it could have been a sea mine, somehow gotten released from its moorings, has been rejected. Given that South Korea currently has excellent relations with China, the only possible culprit could be the North. While the investigation is far from complete, the government has indicated that they will be taking the results to the UN as well as sharing the results with China and Russia.
B.R. Myers, whose fascinating book The Cleanest Race I wrote about earlier, has written a piece for the Wall Street Journal which is a must-read. As I mentioned before, Myers’ theory on North Korean propaganda is quite simple. North Korea is not a Communist state. In fact, they deleted any mention of Communism from their recent new constitution. North Korean propaganda, at least that meant for domestic consumption, has always held that due to their racial homogeneity, the Korean people are naturally pure and virtuous. Because of this, Korea has long been under danger from foreign powers. Thus, there is a need for the leader to protect them.
North Korea is facing a number of challenges on the home front. There has been the financial crisis involving the revaluing of the currency. Many people lost significant portions of their life savings as a result. Also, given the corruption inherent in the regime, North Korea has found it more and more difficult to police its own people. Many people have gone across the river to China. They’ve brought back to North Korea cheap DVD players, pirated South Korean DVDs, and Chinese-made cell phones. They’ve come to see that North Korea is not quite the paradise they’ve been taught to believe it was. As Myers points out, the North Korean government has engaged on a quite reckless propaganda campaign promising a strong and prosperous nation by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung.
They are also preparing for the eventual succession of Kim Jong-eun. Like with his father, there is a need for Kim Jong-eun to have some great military exploits. When Kim Jong-il was preparing to take over, he had a role in the bombing of a Korean Air jetliner, the assassination of 18 ministers of the cabinet of former president Chun Doo-hwan, the kidnapping of a South Korean director and an actress, and some other things as well. Will they ascribe the sinking of the Cheonan to Kim Jong-eun?
Myers outlines the dangers and difficulties that lie ahead with North Korea. The problem is, as he points out here and in his book, that people assume that North Korea is a Communist state. Its ideology is not Communist. Rather, as he points out, it is race-based nationalism with a healthy dose of paranoia. This nationalism has its origins in Japanese fascism. The same ideology which brought us kamikaze pilots could well bring about the same here.
I do think that Myers’ analysis of the whole situation is compelling. You can see his article by clicking here.