NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIVERSITY NATIONAL WAR COLLEGE
NORTH KOREA: AN ARGUMENT TO JUMPSTART THE ECONOMIC ENGINE
LIEUTENANT COLONEL JOHN D. BIRD II, USAF NATIONAL WAR COLLEGE CLASS OF 2007
COURSE 6300, SEMINAR K NON-MILITARY ELEMENTS OF STATECRAFT FACULTY SEMINAR LEADER: AMBASSADOR JAMES B. FOLEY FACULTY ADVISOR: COLONEL THOMAS GRIFFITH, USAF 29 NOVEMBER 2006
Bird 1 On October 8, 2005, North Korea detonated a nuclear device, and forever changed the global political landscape. Despite the best efforts of the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia, the isolationist regime was not deterred from joining the elite nuclear club.1 Now faced with the prospect of North Korean nuclear ...view middle of the document...
Bird 2 probably the greatest social experiment of all times, with free market economics in one corner and communism in the other. The side that won this contest would answer some age old questions about the nature of man, his motivations, and the most efficient structure to maximize sociological, political, and economic utility. The results were staggering. The United States and free markets prevailed with a global economy of epic proportions, looking more like an empire than a nation-state. The Soviets, on the other hand, crumbled because the tenants of communism do not reflect the nature of man and his motivations in the market place. After languishing for 50 years, the economies of former communist states had no place else to go but up, and the economic engine of free markets would jumpstart and sustain their climb. The break up of the Soviet Union resulted in both economic and political realignment around the globe. Many states clearly saw the prosperity of the West and sought to integrate as quickly as possible to begin to reap some of the benefits. The reunification of Germany is a prime example. The Color Revolutions that spread throughout Eastern Europe and beyond were at least as much about economic issues as they were about politics.2 Even China, a former bastion of centralized, communist control, partially opened the Pandora’s box of free market
Lauren Brodsky, “Sowing seeds of democracy in post-Soviet granite,” The Christian Science Monitor, October 31, 2005, 1, available online at http://www.csmonitor.com /2005/1031/p09s01-coop.html.
Bird 3 reform, and began a slow march toward capitalism and increased freedoms. Only a few pockets around the world resisted this phenomenon—places like Cuba, portions of the Middle East, and most importantly for this analysis, North Korea. As Robert Kaplan points out, “North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, was not merely a dreary Stalinist tyrant. As defectors from his country will tell you, he was also a popular anti-Japanese guerrilla,” during World War II. 3 During the Korean War, Kim Il Sung sought unification of the peninsula under his rule with the support of both China and Russia. While he might not have been a devout communist, the ideology of centralized government control of the economy married up nicely with his autocratic desires. In the decades that followed the signing of the Korean Armistice, Kim Il Sung systematically established unbelievably firm autocratic rule over all aspects of the North Korean citizens and their economy. After so many years of brutality, that basically equated to brainwashing, North Koreans today more resemble a “cult of personality” than members of a nation-state.4 Kim Il Sung’s strategic alliance with China and the Soviet Union in the communist camp helped artificially prop up his stunted North Korean economy through various forms of aid. This construct served him well, and provided just enough support to sustain North Korea until
Robert Kaplan, “When...