2007 January 04 Thursday
North Korea Spends Big On Kim Family Deification

Robert Marquand has the story in The Christian Science Monitor. North Koreans are taught to believe that Kim Jong Il is a god.

In fact, in a time of famine and poverty, government spending on Kim-family deification - now nearly 40 percent of the visible budget - is the only category in the North's budget to increase, according to a new white paper by the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy in Seoul. It is rising even as defense, welfare, and bureaucracy spending have decreased. The increase pays for ideology schools, some 30,000 Kim monuments, gymnastic festivals, films and books, billboards and murals, 40,000 "research institutes," historical sites, rock carvings, circus theaters, training programs, and other worship events.

In 1990, ideology was 19 percent of North Korea's budget; by 2004 it doubled to at least 38.5 percent of state spending, according to the white paper. This extra financing may come from recent budget offsets caused by the shutting down of older state funding categories, says Alexander Mansourov of the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.

It has long been axiomatic that the main danger to the Kim regime is internal unrest. That is, Koreans will discover the freedoms, glitter, and diversity of the modern outside world, and stop believing the story of idolatry they are awash in. "It isn't quite realized [in the West] how much a threat the penetration of ideas means. They [Kim's regime] see it as a social problem that could bring down the state," says Brian Myers, a North Korean expert at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea.

The whole article is very interesting. The regime is constantly updating their methods and messages for propagandizing their population. As Marquand makes clear, their propaganda efforts make Stalinist era propaganda in Russia look tame by comparison.

One way we could destabilize the North Korean regime is to pay for smuggling radios, pre-paid cellular phones, CDs, DVDs, and other electronic information tools into North Korea. Make it easier for the North Koreans to find out about the outside world. Beam more radio broadcasts at North Korea. Spend big to help corrupt the border guards and make North Korea's border with China even more permeable. The regime needs isolation in order to survive. Well, de-isolate it.

The regime is unlikely to abandon nuclear weapons in talks because it has used its nuclear weapons program as a big propaganda tool to convince their populace of the power and glory of the regime and of the superiority and strength of their society.

Mass simultaneous Kim and Korea worship events such as flag wavings are pitched to build racial and ethnic solidarity.

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of the Korean cult project is its recent veering toward race and ethnic solidarity, say Kim watchers. His main appeal to his people today, a push that rarely gets attention outside the North, is to the racial superiority of a people whose isolation and stubborn xenophobia supposedly makes their bloodlines purer. Mr. Myers notes that festivals of 100,000 flag wavers is not a Stalinist exercise, but a celebration of "ethnic homogeneity." Since the 1990s Kim has more fervently claimed lineage to the first ancient rulers of Korea, a move intended to place him in a position of historical, if not divine, destiny as leader of the peninsula.

We ought to try to use electronic gadgets as a cheap way to overthrow the North Korean regime. North Korea has 23 million people. How much would it cost to get pre-paid cellphones with thousands of minutes into the hands of millions of them? How much would it cost to smuggle in millions of radios and MP3 players preloaded with lectures about life in other countries and the ability of MP3 players to swap lectures?

We are spending about $3 billion a week in Iraq (plus much larger longer term costs from deaths, maiming, post traumatic stress disorder, and the like) which does not do anything to improve US security. For a week's cost of the Iraq debacle we could probably give a few million North Koreans contact with the rest of the world and information about how much their government lies to them.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 January 04 08:52 PM  Korea

dave said at January 4, 2007 9:11 PM:

Its a good idea, although I think radios are the only viable means. Cell phones need cell towers and mp3 players seem inflexible without computer access to update the content.

Randall Parker said at January 4, 2007 9:21 PM:


A big chunk of Korea is accessible to Chinese cell towers. In some areas you have to climb mountains facing toward China. But the cell phones work tens of miles into China according to accounts I've read. Not sure just how far into Korea they work. I'm guessing the same holds for South Korean cell towers.

Stephen said at January 5, 2007 8:36 PM:

Why interfere at all? From a US perspective, what's the strategic relevance of an insular NK?

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