ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, March 11, 2005

N Korea - Things are likely to get worse before they improve

H/T - Drudge

InterestAlert.com has an interesting article about a crackdown in North Korea.

N. Korea launches harsh crackdown
By JONG-HEON LEE

SEOUL, March 11 (UPI) -- North Korea has recently tightened state control over its hunger-hit population amid U.S.-led pressure over its nuclear weapons program and human right conditions, sources here say.

South Korean officials and analysts interpret the move as part of efforts to prevent mounting outside threats over the nuclear standoff from triggering internal threats or opposition to the Stalinist leadership.

[...]

According to North Korean defectors and intelligence sources in Seoul, human trafficking is rampant in North Korea for sex trade and labor. "Attitudes towards sex have changed dramatically in North Korea," said a defector who resettled in Seoul last year.

"North Korean women who illegally crossed the border into China for food were sold into the sex trade," he said. "Female fugitives are working in restaurants and karaoke in China to earn money," the defector said.

The open execution comes at a time when outside influence is seeping in the watertight society. North Koreans traveling to China are exposed to the rapidly spreading capitalist culture there, and some of them smuggle radios and CDs containing South Korean songs and TV dramas, which are popular in most of Asia.

With no signs of a revival of the country's tattered economy, cracks were starting to show in North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's dynastic control. Leaflets and posters against Kim's rule appeared in the nation.

In the face of growing cracks in the system, North Korea amended its criminal code last year increasing penalties for expressing criticism of the government and other "anti-state" crimes. The revision, the fifth since 1950, also calls for tougher regulation on new crimes caused by infiltration of outside information.

North Korea also postponed its legislative session, which was due to open this month, in an apparent bid to tighten domestic control over the people by fanning a sense of crisis across the country.

In its New Year message, North Korea put top priority on preventing the influx of any capitalist culture into the closed society. Under the message, North Korean security agents have launched aggressive crackdown on "anti-socialist" behaviors in border areas since January.

So far this year, North Korea has executed more than 60 citizens to warn its people against committing any "anti-republic" behaviors, such as illegal border crossing and information leakage, according to a Seoul-based relief group.

[...]

Hundreds of households close to China were also forced to relocate to remote areas farther from the border to prevent their involvement in illegal border activities, such as human trafficking.

The North's authorities have also banned the use of mobile phones and confiscate them to prevent information from being leaked to the outside world.

North Korea introduced mobile service in November 2002, with cell phones from Motorola Corp. of the United States and Nokia Corp. of Finland, and Nokia is available in the market in Pyongyang. The number of mobile phone users increased to more than 20,000 in 2003, according to Chosun Sinbo, a newspaper run by pro-Pyongyang ethnic Koreans in Japan.

But the use of mobile phones has helped pierce North Korea's Iron Curtain and break down the Pyongyang regime, which insulates itself through isolating citizens, curbing the spread of information.

Many North Koreans, including border peddlers and border guards, have Chinese cell phones, and they easily contact South Koreans with them in the border areas. They make cell phone calls to their South Korean relatives or North Korean defectors to ask for cash or other economic aid, South Korean officials say.

North Koreans are using Chinese telecommunication networks to reach South Korean phones, intelligence sources here say. Chinese communication firms, which have rapidly expanded their cell phone services, recently installed relay stations along the border with North Korea, which has kindled a cell phone boom in North Korea.

The Chinese devices are charged using pre-paid phone cards, and cost some 400 Chinese yuan (less than $50) for three month's use.

Despite the strict measures, mobile phones have served as conveyer belts of information from the outside world to help combat decades of state-sponsored propaganda and misinformation, defectors say.

How to maintain the closure of the society in this globalized world community? This is a huge dilemma for North Korea to keep the hermit kingdom afloat.
Kim will (incorrectly) assume that he can stop this spread of information... heck, he could succeed at it, but not without slaughtering thousands. Imagine being executed because you own a cell phone... or being relocated because you lived too close to the Canadian border? Or, heading into Canada for food, being taken advantage of and sold into sex slavery, and then returning to US and being shot... difficult to imagine the insanity that is North Korea under Kim Jong Il. But, seriously....we shouldn't call North Korea part of the Axis of Evil... Let's go back to "a State of Concern" (ala Clinton/Albright)... It has a much warmer feel to it.

And of course, the LA Times piece from Barbara Demick (who was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt) went into every detail of this crackdown and the growing oppression in North Korea. Most interesting quote from the interview (IMO)?
[Hewitt:] If North Korea were to open its borders and pursue an economy with the same policies as South Korea, do you expect it would be as successful as the South has been in building an industrial base and economic growth?

[Demick:] No
Ummm, she's either a commie or an idiot. Does she think that the South Koreans became successful because they're that much different than the North?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler