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 21 2018164 North Korea Part Thirteen, How North Korea Got Nukes

Even as its citizens starved, Kim Jong Il was able to assure that North Korea was able to obtain nuclear weapons. He did this by raising revenue with criminal activity, prioritizing the military above all else, bribing a Pakistani nuclear scientist, and reverse-engineering Scud missiles.

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.

Mar 19 2018157 North Korea Part Eight, Juche

Juche is the animating principal of North Korea. It’s usually translated as “self-reliance,” but in fact it means whatever is good for the regime. Juche is the ideology that North Korea uses to convince it’s people, the outside world, and itself that its system of totalitarianism and authoritarianism has a coherent ideological basis. It’s distinct from communism, often incoherent, and is what keeps North Korea from integrating itself into the larger world.

Mar 06 2018156 North Korea Part Seven, The Good Old Days

The Cold War was a good time for North Korea. For much of the mid 20th century it was relatively better off than South Korea, and North Korean citizens recognized that the new regime was worlds better than what they had under Japanese occupation. In this time period of prosperity, the North Korean leadership played China and the Soviet Union off each other, instituted a caste system, and cultivated a policy of isolationism.

Feb 26 2018155 North Korea Part Six: War and No Peace

The Korean War was supposed to be over quickly. However, due to intervention from the United Nations, China, and the Soviet Union, what would have been a quick regional conflict turned into a years-long war that involved over twenty countries and left millions dead. At the end of it, the borders between the two Koreas looked much like they had before the war, and it gradually became apparent that the division would not go away anytime soon.