The Jealous God
In Socialism everything gets better until things finally collapse. Nowhere is this more true than North Korea which promises that its population will see more of everything in 2012: more food, housing, clothing, etc. A Summer of Recovery on the Yalu. In the meantime the population is told to that it has to eat less and burn less fuel, to prepare for this glorious future.
But it hard to see how much more environmentally friendly the North Koreans can be. Chosin Ilbo notes that despite Pyongyang's use of forced labor to reforest the hillsides, North Korea is losing its forest cover. The biggest reason is that a desperately cold people have taken to chopping down anything to stay warm.
Shortages of food and energy in North Korea have turned the country's mountains into barren wastelands, and more and more people are cutting down trees for firewood, while most of the trucks in the North run on charcoal.
Charcoal-fueled vehicles appeared in North Korea in the mid-1980s. Most military vehicles back then ran on gasoline or diesel, but nowadays even military trucks, with the exception of combat vehicles, run on charcoal. An entire mountainside has to be razed every year in order to fuel one charcoal-powered vehicle. Oak, ash, and white birch trees, which are excellent sources of charcoal, have been cut down indiscriminately.
Nor is there any help for it. North Korea which has had history of exchanging ideas with Pakistan, shares one notion in particular with that Holy Nation: a deep sense of entitlement. "When the South Korean government offered to plant trees in the North, officials there asked for rice in return for allowing it."
The Strategy Page notes things are so desperate that Pyongyang's army is literally melting away as ordinary soldiers turn to black market activity, or illegal employment, or just plain theft to make ends meet. This has raised fears among the North Korean leadership that South Korea might be tempted to invade the North and soften the way firing packets of ramen in the path of advancing South Korean troops with the starveling defenders so busy consuming the noodles they will ignore the invaders.
The decline has accelerated in the last few years as the troops have lost their faith in North Korea. Part of this was hunger, for in the past the troops always had food. But most troops are conscripts, and they are coming from families who have known only increasing deprivation. The troops also noted that their senior officers live very well. The northern leadership is also aware that the South Korean armed forces have loyal, well-armed and trained troops. North Korean military experts point out that the southerners are strong enough, especially if their American allies help out, to invade the north. Of course, the south has no interest in doing this. The only talk of moving into North Korea is to restore order after a government collapse up there, or a civil war. But the northern leadership doesn't care what the reason the southerners use to invade, just that they are planning to move north, and that they could get away with it.
The comprehensive failure of the North Korean economy has made them dependent, of all things, on the atom. Not to produce power but to produce weapons in order to blackmail neighboring nations into feeding them. The arc of North Korea is chilling preview of how socialism plays out. You get a deforested, starving and barren wasteland ruled by a hereditary aristocracy -- all in the name of progressiveness and serving the people.
There are alas, too many capitalist roaders and wreckers sabotaging Pyongyang's economy.
The number of North Koreans to make it to South Korea has increased 19 percent over last year. Over 2,300 have arrived so far this year, and nearly 23,000 of these refugees currently live in the south. Such migration only went into high gear in the last decade. Wealthy North Koreans (either corrupt officials or market entrepreneurs) are getting out, and organizations able to move the refugees through China to Thailand (the most common way station to South Korea) are larger and more efficient. South Korea is asking China to relent and allow North Korean refugees to go directly from China to South Korea. China has always honored North Korean demands that illegal migrants must be arrested and returned (to labor camp, or immediate execution). China has increasingly tolerated these illegal migrants, and is fed up with the North Korean government, perhaps to the point where North Korea escapees will become legal, and allowed to continue on to South Korea. The downside of this is that such a policy change could trigger a flood of refugees from North Korea. The negotiations with South Korea on this matter probably include haggling over how much the South Koreans will compensate the Chinese for the expense of dealing with the flood.
So the North has demanded that the South stop -- stop everything, anything to keep from showing them up.
November 25, 2011: North Korea media threatened to specifically go after the South Korea president if South Korean "aggression" (in the form of military training) did not cease.
November 20, 2011: In an effort to calm down the increasingly paranoid North Korean leadership, the south has sent more medical supplies, and halted groups who release balloons (carrying propaganda items) that fly into the north. But the truth of the matter is that the only thing the south could do to placate the north is to disappear.
That is characteristic. Socialism is a jealous god. It must conquer the earth until it is magnificent by comparison with utter desolation. When only the socialist "Victory Gin" is produced will it finally be best brand of gin ever distilled on earth.