Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Sociology of North Korea

Over at Asia Times Online (is there a dead-tree edition?), eminent Korean Studies scholar Aidan Foster-Carter talks about the inner workings of the Pyongyang regime that have led us to where they are now, and why they might be crumbling:
Second, I dare to hope for a happy ending. Kim Il-sung's sociological nous has kept the state he created alive longer than many (me included) had expected. But can it go on for ever?

That I doubt. A full answer would loose more hares than there's room for here. In the 21st century, refusing market reforms is a recipe for self-destruction. Abroad, North Korea's old game of militant mendicancy, despite some success from the Sino-Soviet dispute right up to the six-party talks, is past its sell-by date; other powers are fed up and won't play any more.

But just to stick to the processes already mentioned, these too are far from foolproof. The weakest link is familism. Past history, in Korea or anywhere - think of the Borgias in Italy - suggests that monarchies or other forms of family rule can be riddled by strife. Some crown princes just aren't up to the job. People plot, and before you know it the knives are out.
Much of the rest will be familiar stuff to regular Pyongyang watchers, but it's always interesting to get the good professor's take.

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