Jun 23 2018167 North Korea Part Fifteen, How North Korea Ends

This week we close out our look at North Korea with three different scenarios for the future: War, reform, and reunification. None of the these futures are good. A war would kill millions. Reform could entrench a brutal dictatorship. Reunification could create an impoverished underclass in a new Korea for a generation.

Image via CNN.

Jun 04 2018166 North Korea Part Fourteen, How to Escape From North Korea

Escaping North Korea is difficult, but it can be done. Notable escapees include Choi Eun-Hee and Shin Sang-Ok, a South Korean actress and director who Kim Jong Il captured and forced to make movies, like the Godzilla knockoff Pulgasari, pictured below. Kenji Fujimoto is the pseudonym for Kim’s personal chef who escaped to Japan in 2001. But, the vast majority of North Koreans escape the country because of famine and desperation, and the trip is a long and arduous one through China and Southeast Asia.

May 23 2018165 Happy Defenestration Day!

Happy Defenestration Day! On May 23rd, 1618 a bunch of angry Bohemian nobles shoved some government officials out of a window. The Second Defenestration of Prague kicked off the Thirty Years’ War, but today we mark it as a sesquipedalian occasion to celebrate very large words.

May 09 2018163 North Korea Part Twelve, Kim Jong Il and the Arduous March of Famine

The transition of power from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il was a gradual one. From 1980 until 1994, it’s probably that the younger Kim did most of the day-to-day ruling of North Korea, with Kim Il Sung acting in a more removed capacity. When Kim Il Sung did die, it was at an opportune time. His son assumed power in 1994, just in time to preside over a famine that would kill over two million North Korean citizens.

Apr 24 2018161 North Korea Part Eleven, The Tomb of the Eternal President

The 1980s and early 1990s were a bad time for North Korea. The DPRK had to endure South Korea hosting the 1988 Olympics, the country sunk billions of dollars into wasteful infrastructure projects, and the Cold War ended, depriving them of Soviet aid. After that, North Korea suffered a symbolic blow in 1994 when Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader, died at the age of eighty two.

Apr 12 2018160 North Korea Part Ten, “Meanwhile, in South Korea!”

For years South Korea was a dysfunctional military dictatorship under leaders like Rhee Syngman and Park Chun Hee. Assassination, martial law, and political repression were the order of the day. North Korean propaganda was able to exploit the militarism, chaos, and violence in their neighbor in propaganda, but after democratic reforms in the 1980s, the relative stability of the Korean peninsula is very different. For the most part. South Korea still does have the occasional presidential scandal.

Mar 28 2018158 North Korea Part Nine, The DMZ, Assassinations, and the USS Pueblo

During the Cold War, North Korea primarily interacted with South Korea and the United States via building the DMZ, several assassination attempts on South Korean presidents, and the taking of the USS Pueblo, the crew of which are pictured below. Note how they held their fingers when being photographed by their North Korean captors.

Feb 12 2018154 North Korea Part Five, The Spark of War

Prior to the Korean War, both North and South saw themselves as the legitimate government for the entire peninsula. At the time, the North was considered the more advanced, industrialized part of the peninsula, and Kim Il Sung believed that he could win a war with the more rural South. Stalin gave Kim permission for an invasion, and the Soviet premier believed that the war would be small, regional, and over quickly. However, the United States was able to mobilize the United Nations for what was termed a “police action” to intervene on the peninsula. The was would be regional, but it would drag on for years and involve several major world powers.

Feb 06 2018153 North Korea, Part Four: Red(ish) Dawn

After WWII, the Korean peninsula was briefly united again as The People’s Republic of Korea. However, the unification wouldn’t last. American and Soviet forces divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel, and in the north the Soviet Union set about creating a puppet state. However, the leader they chose, Kim Il Sung, and the founding ideology of their new state would not play out entirely as they had planned.

Jan 29 2018152 North Korea, Part Three: Collaborators, Resistors, and Kim Il Sung

Japanese occupation changed North Korea, with various citizens either collaborating with or actively resisting it. One of those resistors was a guerrilla fighter named Kim Song Ju, who would later be known as Kim Il Sung. If you believe North Korean propaganda (which you shouldn’t) Kim Il Sung was born of humble farmers and formed a secret Korean resistance during the occupation. In fact, his grandfather was a Protestant minister, he spent most of his youth in China, and the units he fought with were organized either by the Chinese or Russians.