… is China, according to a newly released global survey of “Gross National Happiness.” The number two spot goes to North Korea. Cuba ranks #3, Iran #4, Venezuela #5.
And, if you’re starting to detect a pattern here, South Korea ranks #152. The U.S. clocks in with the abysmal rank of #203.
Assuming this isn’t satire (and I haven’t quite ruled that out; though, with all of North Korea’s official propaganda to draw on, who needs satire?) there are two things that stand out here. One is obvious: This list is a great guide to North Korea’s buddies in the global trouble-making racket; a wish-list for pals of Kim Jong Il’s utopia.
The second is tantalizing in its potential significance. In its own happiness index, North Korea cedes first place to China. That’s quite a concession for a North Korean regime that officially regards itself as the perfection of all systems and endlessly exhorts its people to extol the colossal happiness conferred upon them by the father-son tyrannical tag team of the late Kim Il Sung and the current Kim Jong Il. Perhaps deferring to China as #1 was just a bit of despotic neighborly etiquette, given that the release of this Happiness Index apparently coincided with Kim Jong Il’s latest trip to China. During that trip, Kim tried harder — lavishing praise on China’s ruling Communist Party. North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency has posted Kim’s speech from a banquet last week with China’s supreme comrade, Hu Jintao, in which Kim thrills to China’s rejection of “dominationism” and celebrates the successes of the Chinese Communist Party and government as clearly proving “the scientific nature and invincibility of socialism.”
A companion explanation might be that China has been Kim’s most visible collaborator in the nuclear and missile proliferation rackets. China is currently blocking the official release by the United Nations Security Council of two recent reports by a UN panel of experts on sanctions on North Korea. According to leaked accounts, this UN panel alleges that China has been abetting North Korea’s illicit proliferation deals. U.S. officials have made similar charges. In such circumstances, it’s easy to see why North Korea’s regime might modestly place itself at #2 on the world happiness list, and flatter China as #1.
Another possibility, however, is that enough information from the outside world, or at least from China, is by now seeping into North Korea, so that even the Pyongyang regime isn’t quite sure it can get away with a lie as spectacular as ranking North Korea itself as #1 on the North Korean global happiness index. North Koreans may not have an accurate sense of how folks live in Kentucky. But it’s a good bet that by now they do know that compared to North Korea, China is a land of plenty. For North Korea’s brutal and totalitarian regime, growing awareness among North Koreans themselves of a better life elsewhere is one more sign that spells trouble for Kim — and his Happiness Index.