Saturday, April 14, 2012

Has North Korea jumped the shark?

Tongues are awaggin' about how royally the Pyongyang regime has screwed up with the recent failed launch of a satellite, alleged by South Koreans, the Japanese, and the Americans to actually be a missile test. With the device blowing apart about a minute after take-off, it means fizzled plans and careers as much as it means a fizzled device.

The whole launch thing has led me to liken North Korea to a television show, but I think I'm going to take that analogy even further: Has North Korea jumped the shark?

The DPRK may well be in its final stages. If television teaches us anything (and it does), it's that a show has jumped the shark when they cast some unknown kid in a central role. We can already see with the regime admitting to the people that it fu¢ked up that things have really turned a corner.

Failure to Launch is a movie
and a TV program.
So how does it end? Is North Korea a giant snow globe in the hands of an autistic kid? Does Kim Jong-il wake up next to Suzanne Pleshette (they're both dead, but I'm guessing they reside in different parts of the afterlife) and talk about a weird dream he had a cabin in the mountains? Does Kim Jong-un huddle together with the octogenarian and nonagenarian generals and sing an old war song as they shuffle out the door and head to Mongolia?


Just as before, here are some of the possibilities for which I'll try to make an over-under for this gentlemen's bet (again, also open to ladies and English teachers):
  • North Korea adopts Deng-era Chinese economic reforms, which brings "socialism with Korean characteristics" and transforms the DPRK into a version of Guangdong. Meaning if you are not one of the elite then you are royally fu¢ked, though the government will stop trying to kill you if you splatter soup on your Kim Ilsung badge. 
  • Reformers somehow manage a coup, à la the Arab Spring, but without Islamists taking all the seats in the resulting election.
  • North Korea starts to implode, but in its death throes it decides to unleash everything on Seoul, Ilsan, and P'aju, in a fit of "if I can't have you then no one can" brought on by too many Korean television dramas.
  • Calmly and coolly, the North Korean elite (with or without Kim Jong-un and his family's support) decide to enter into an official federation with South Korea. The two Koreas drop claims that Koreans are the Jews, Irish, or Italians of Asia, and instead decide to go with Czechoslovakians. 
  • Kim Jong-un has a nasty accident while giving on-the-spot advice to machine operators at a chicken butchering plant. Prodigal son Kim Jong-nam is brought in from Macau to serve as a uniter not just between factions but between North Korea and the world community. Unfortunately, he loses North Hamgyŏng Province in a high-stakes pai gow match. 
  • Kim Jong-un makes steps down and allows free and open elections, makes nice with US officials who allow him to go into exile in Ohio (which has the exact same weather as North Korea), where he opens up a Hamhung-style noodle shop called "KJU's DPRK in Cincinnati." 
  • Nothing changes. The "Young General Show" runs, like The Simpsons, for another twenty-five years with no end in sight. 
Offer up your own, but give odds. Any of the above could happen (General Santa Anna ended up in Kansas City), so feel free to latch on to some variation of any of those. 



  1. I have thought of a few more:

    A chain reaction gets out of control at one of the North's secret underground nuclear facilities. Russian experts are rushed in, but the equipment is so outdated that none of them can make heads or tails of it. The resulting meltdown renders half the country uninhabitable, and the leadership is so eager to escape the fallout that they relinquish power to the South in exchange for exile in Switzerland. (odds: 80,000 to 1)

    An experimental virus gets out of one of the North's bioweapons labs and wreaks havoc among the population, resulting in a zombie apocalypse. China and South Korea keep the borders sealed tight for 50 years, then send a team of commandos in to look for signs of life... (odds: 5 million to 1)

    In a fit of gluttony, Kim Jong Eun eats some imported American beef and contracts Mad Cow disease. As his mind slowly degenerates over the next decade, his policy decisions get more and more erratic until he gets killed by his own chief of security, a la Pak Chung Hee. The military tries to take over and sets up an emergency ruling council, but that soon devolves into power struggles. An alarmed China steps in and sets up a stable puppet state. (Odds: 50 million to 1)

    North Korea’s great strides in developing nuclear fusion technology attract the attention of a hostile alien race, who land undetected and quickly take over the country body-snatchers style. The first sign of trouble is when people fail to show emotion when paying homage to the leaders’ corpses at Keumsusan Memorial Palace, but by then it is too late. (Odds: 100 million to 1)

    Finally bowing to international pressure, North Korea’s leaders decide to embrace a policy of reform and opening. They give up their nuclear weapons in exchange for massive aid and debt forgiveness. As social controls are relaxed, the people calmly accept the news that they have been lied to and exploited all these years. As the economy transforms, the military is massively reduced and thousands of discharged soldiers somehow find other means to support themselves without turning to violence. The regime manages to weather the ensuing storms of disillusionment and social transformation and, after 30 years of hard work and careful management, brings the economy up to a level equivalent to Slovakia, at which point the country is peacefully reunified with the South through national consensus. (Odds: 1 billion to 1)

    1. In reference to your third prediction, how interesting that less than two weeks after you wrote this we are starting to get something of a repeat over the Mad Cow scare.


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