North Korea nears age of affluence
By Kim Myong Chol
There is every likelihood that in 2012, supreme leader Kim Jong-il and his heir designate Kim Jong-eun will preside over North Korea's admission into a third elite club, that of strong and prosperous states. The North is already a member of the space and nuclear clubs, and its emergence as an affluent state will fulfill a long-elusive policy goal of founding father Kim Il-sung. .
Today, North Korea indigenously manufactures a full range of heavy and light industrial products, chiefly to satisfy growing domestic demand. These range from complex machine tools, heavy-duty construction machinery, mining machines, high-strength steel, aluminum pipes and LED lights to semi-conductors and super-computers. The North also produces
LCD televisions and optical fiber cable.
The Western world will be left stunned as the North emerges as the next Asian Tiger economy, struggling to figure out how North Korea has achieved so much in the absence of financial and technological assistance from abroad and despite harsh US sanctions and a virtual state of war with the US.
Dr Gavan McCormack, professor at Australian National University, noted in a Japan Focus article November 5, 2007:
North Korea has faced the threat of nuclear annihilation for more than half a century. If anything is calculated to drive a people mad, and to generate in it an obsession with unity and survival, and with nuclear weapons as the sine qua non of national security, it must be such an experience. Its demand for relief from nuclear intimidation was unquestionably just and yet was ignored by the global community, till, eventually, as we know, it took the matter into its own hands.
Full of confidence and pride, Pyongyang also plans to follow up on next year's achievement by joining the ranks of the "most advanced" countries by 2020.
The timing of North Korea's 2012 emergence as an economic power could not be more auspicious and significant, and the success story carries five lessons of historic significance.
Kim Jong-eun a symbol of Kim Il-sung's immortality
The Korean people, the Workers' Party of Korea, government and the Korean People's Army consider Kim Jong-eun a manifestation of the founding father, Kim Il-sung that effectively keeps him alive and in charge for ever. Kim Il-sung's leadership provides the ancestral land of Korea with millenniums of prosperity and peace as enjoyed by the ancient Korean kingdom of Dankun 5,000 years ago and of Koguryo 2,000 years ago.
Kim Jong-eun has spent the past several years working as a low-key, young prodigy, all the time showing he has what it takes to be a third Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-eun is credited with taking personal charge of the second satellite launch in February and two nuclear tests in 2009 and 2009. He also oversaw Korea's emergence as a leading manufacturer of machine tools, the country's development of an iron-making process free from coking coal, the nationwide introduction of LED lights and installation of 3G cell phone networks.
These achievements earned the "Young General" a reputation as a legendary great statesman who will lead the Korean people into a rosy future, also catapulting him to the position of heir-designate to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il.
One reason why Kim Il-sung remains so revered is the gift he left the Korean people - Kim Jong-il. In turn, what makes Kim Jong-il great is his god-sent fortune to have Kim Jong-eun as the next leader, giving the Korean people uninterrupted access to Kim Il-sung-class statecraft.
Were it not for Kim Jong-eun, the Korean people would be in no mood to celebrate the emergence of their country as an affluent society in 2012, much less the centennial birthday of Kim Il-sung and the 70th birthday anniversary of Kim Jong-il.
North Korea would be like a powerful and prospering family without any successor that could be compared to a rudderless ship left at the mercy of the elements, running every risk of being sent to Davy Jones' Locker. There is no point in achieving prosperity against heavy odds if it is short-lived.
Without this leadership, the Americans, the South Koreans and the Japanese may have ended their strategic patience to launch a war, wreaking havoc in North Korea in a conflict that escalated into a third world war.
The most competent leaders of a reunified Korea
On look at the state of leadership in South Korea, Japan, European Union states and the United States shows how lucky and blessed North Korea is to have lived under three generations of brilliant statesmanship.
In the eyes of the world audience, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-eun have eloquently and indisputably proved themselves the best qualified leaders in the Land of Morning Calm to lead a reunified Korea that operates with two systems.
South Korea, as it is effectively leaderless, is anything but a sovereign and affluent society, with its Seoul subway stations full of homeless people.
For all its noisily publicized economic success story, South Korea is not close to entering the space and nuclear clubs and is host to a nationwide network of American military bases, equipped with nuclear arms. Seoul has no wartime operational command over its armed forces, which are only KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the US Army).
The South failed remarkably in two much ballyhooed attempts to lift a satellite even with rockets imported from Russia.
The Financial Times reported in its May 29 article "Divided Economy": "South Korea has one of the world's highest suicide rates, worsening rapidly as the gulf widens between rich and poor in a faltering and uneven domestic economy. Suicide has doubled in the past decade to account for 31 in every 100,000 deaths."
A major south Korean daily Joong Ang Ilbo quoted July 20 ruling Grand National Party chairman Hong Joon-pyo as issuing "a withering criticism of President Lee Myung-bak".
"The president is good at everything, including diplomacy, but bad at politics ... Because he is a former CEO, he is running the country as if he is running a company."
Professor Kwon Yong-jun said in a June, 2009 speech at Kyonghee University: "The trouble is that what the ill-fitting or incompetent appointees by Lee Myung-bak is of less value than trash."
A year earlier, the Kyonghyang Sinmun ran a commentary headlined "Lee Myung-bak Government Devoid of Three Key Elements" June 10, 2008.
"The Lee Myung-bak government is found wanting in terms of awareness of popular feelings, responsibility as a government and in organizing a functioning system."
Meanwhile, in the US, President Barack Obama's leadership is under increasing fire. When Standard & Poor's decided on August 5 to strip the US of its cherished top-tier AAA credit rating for the first time, it describing it as a judgment about the US's leaders and wrote that "the gulf between the political parties" had reduced its confidence in the government's ability to manage its finances.
The New York Times quoted the rating agency as stating: "The downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenge."
North Korea's membership of the space and nuclear clubs has not been enough to convince the Americans of the futility of any sanctions imposed on highly resourceful and resilient nation led by such a distinguished leader such as Kim Jong-il.
What underlies the US sanctions is the delusion that isolating North Korea from the outside world would eventually bring it to its knees.
The US appears utterly oblivious to the fact that sanctions have never worked. These have instead inspired the target country to redouble efforts to outperform them.
There is no overstating the fact that American sanctions aided North Korea's emergence as the fourth-most powerful nuclear weapons state, equipped as it is with nuclear-tipped inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that put the whole of the Metropolitan US within effective range,
The Christian Science Monitor commented June 4, 2010: "But on the whole, it might be true: Tightening sanctions on North Korea may be like trying to squeeze lemon juice from a walnut.
"Western leverage over the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] remains limited," concludes a study from the Congressional Research Service from 2009. The Boston Globe wrote in a November 2010 editorial:
The Obama administration's policy has been to keep up sanctions and pressure on North Korea. This has led only to military confrontations and an expansion of the North's nuclear capabilities. North Korea's leaders have been sending an either/or message to Washington and their neighbors: Either resume six-party negotiations leading to concessions on both sides, or be prepared for armed clashes.
The New York Times wrote on June 12, 2009: "But mandatory or not, many analysts and former diplomats questioned whether any sanctions regime would ever have enough bite to break the cycle. 'Sanctions won't bring North Korea to its knees,' said Kim Keun-sik, a specialist on North Korea at Kyungnam University in Seoul. 'The North knows this very well, from having lived with economic sanctions of one sort or another for the past 60 years'."
Unattractive offers of aid and security for disarmament
One of the most important upsides of North Korea's transformation into a thriving nation is that the American offer of economic aid and guarantee of security for disarmament has been rendered unattractive.
North Korea is unique in that it has successfully managed to join the three elite clubs as full members by uniting its people close behind supreme leader Kim Jong-il and sticking to its guns to face down 60 years of nuclear threats, harsh sanctions and isolation attempts by the Americans.
North Korea's success story carries an important message: any given small Third World country can afford to defend itself and grow into a prosperous state by itself, dispensing with security guarantees and aid from the US and its allies
A major prerequisite of this achievement was boasting national leaders competent enough to unite its population with deserved national pride and mobilize them into an organized national effort to achieve prosperity.
No wonder, the Wall Street journal reported July 30; "The South Korean diplomat who met North Korean officials last week said Friday that they reacted coolly to Seoul's proposals for an aid-for-weapons deal."
The North Koreans well remember the Americans are never as good as their word as exemplified by their failure to fulfill their pledge as apart of a framework agreed in 1994 to complete two lightwater reactors, provide fuel and establish full ties.
In fact, the Americans are not the least interested in fulfilling the obligations of any international agreement, though the US insists on other parties meeting them.
Dr Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York, said in his op-ed in the May 23, 2003 edition of the Boston Globe: "The fact is, Washington got what it most wanted [in the 1994 framework agreement] up front , but did not live up to its end of the bargain."
Such so-called aid and security-for-disarmament programs are nothing but a trap as seen by the US-led invasion of Libya. Nuclear-tipped long-range missiles could enable Libya to launch an immediate retaliatory nuclear strike on the US, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, torching their capitals.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) strikes on the African state provides North Korea, Iran and many other states on the nuclear threshold with the most potent justification for their refusal to give up nuclear missile programs in exchange of security and aid.
The war on Libya serves only as a death knell of nuclear non-proliferation. The war in Libya and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remind the rest of the world that the US and NATO are doomed.
Songun or military-first policy a recipe for prosperity
The last and not least important point of North Korea's admission into the three elite clubs is that the songun or military-first policy fathered by Kim Il-sung and applied in the modern sense by Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-eun serves Third World countries as the best recipe for maximum self-reliant national defense and economic success story.
The greatest benefit of the working military-first policy is to be found in that the Korean People's Army, armed with thermonuclear-tipped ICBMs, has put the Korean Peninsula out of war by keeping the US at bay.
In striking contrast, war has ravaged Iraq and Libya as they lacked nuclear arms and their long-range means of delivery.
What distinguishes the songun policy from the ordinary military-first policy as understood in the West is that North Korea is by no means a militarized state.
As society's largest institution of most disciplined, well-educated and highly motivated people, the North Korean armed forces play a key productive and benign role in national life in addition to their role of safeguarding national sovereignty and the safety and peace of the population from infringement from any foreign powers.
Contrary to their image as unbridled consumers, the North Korean armed forces are part and parcel of extended reproduction as leading manufacturers of heavy and light industrial items including foods.
So to speak, the Korean People's Army functions as the most efficient civil engineering corps and university complex providing good vocational training and able members of society.
Kim Myong Chol is author of a number of books and papers in Korean, Japanese and English on North Korea, including Kim Jong-il's Strategy for Reunification. He has a PhD from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Academy of Social Sciences and is often called an "unofficial" spokesman of Kim Jong-il and North Korea.