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Written By: - Date published: 7:09 am, December 20th, 2011 - 104 comments
Categories: defence, International - Tags: , ,

Kim Jong Il’s dead. Kim Jong Un’s next in line. Could there be a succession crisis in the only nuclear-armed monarchy? I reckon it’s an opportunity. Jong Un’s a 27 year-old computer nerd now stuck running a broke-arse, backwards country. If Obama really wants rid of nukes, he should cut the kid a deal and get rid of some of his own at the same time.

104 comments on “Crisi-tunity ”

  1. joe bloggs 1

    Unfortunately there are a lot of obstacles in the way of detente with North Korea.

    Kor a start there’s the North korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. The idea being that all North Korean problems should be solved by North Koreans.

    With the death of Kim Jong Il, there’s a real possibility that that negotiating with Pyongyang could become much tougher in the absence of his hand on the diplomatic steering wheel. If North Korea collapses, that would create a political, security, humanitarian, and economic nightmare for the region. That would surely lead to a loss of control by the North over its WMD stockpile, technology and work force.

    There’s also a significant regional barrier – the Japanese consider Washington’s disarmament talks with PyongYang to be far too conciliatory – and without the support of China and Russia, Washington will not move to cut a disarmament deal.

    Of course the North Korean government would also need to cease flooding the world with methamphetamine and counterfeit US currency for any serious discussions to take place.

    The West (not just USA) would be better to undertake a broad diplomatic engagement beyond the nuclear issue through bilateral and multilateral negotiations, covering political, economic, and social assistance, such as full normalization of relations and large-scale energy assistance.

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      Good comment Joe.

      You might find this piece from Steve Clemons interesting http://t.co/TQql0OSZ

    • Gosman 1.2

      “The West (not just USA) would be better to undertake a broad diplomatic engagement beyond the nuclear issue through bilateral and multilateral negotiations, covering political, economic, and social assistance, such as full normalization of relations and large-scale energy assistance.”

      Ummmmmm….. you do realise that this was basically the heart of the nuclear negotiations that have been undertaken to date. The West gave large amounts of finacial aid and support to the energy sector, (in the form of funding and building light water reactors), with a promise of normalisation of relations going forward in return for North Korea dismantling it’s nuclear weapons programme. North Korea reneged on every deal agreed. Why do you think it would be any different in the future?

      • joe bloggs 1.2.1

        I don’t.

        Frankly the twin concepts of juche and deep-seated suspicion of the West are too deeply engrained in the North Korean political culture to allow them to change.

    • insider 1.3

      SO Juche is like ‘number 8 wire’ thinking gone mad?

      • Ari 1.3.1

        It’s like if the ACT party actually believed in what it said. 😉

      • Matthew Hooton 1.3.2

        That’s a brilliant comment – best description of juche I’ve ever heard. There is a lesson for NZ there (somewhere).

        • insider

          I expect royalties if it turns up in print or on radio… 🙂

        • Populuxe1

          We called it Think Big. A lot of people, including myself, have been very rude about it then or since – but putting it in the context of the Oil Crisis of 1973, and looking forward to Peak Oil now, its legacy might have an entirely different flavour.

  2. Gosman 2

    Perhaps the US could agree to get rid of the same number of Nuclear weapons as the North Korean’s have in their arsenal. Half a dozen will make a real difference – not.

    • higherstandard 2.1

      Well it would make a big difference to the South Koreans.

      • Gosman 2.1.1

        Agreed. However my point was that there is no way that North Korea is going to agree to dismantle it’s weapon programme on the basis that the US will dismantle a handful of nuclear weapons from their massive stockpile as suggested by Zetetic. What they probably would want is if the US forces were withdrawn from South Korea and possibly Japan. However they would most likely renege on that deal as they have on all the others.

    • Lanthanide 2.2

      The US was apparently on the verge (ie, this week) of starting more talks with North Korea over their weapons programme (after being on hold for 3 years) as well as announcing a new food aid programme. These announcements have now been postponed.

  3. The United States and the broader democratic world doesn’t really have an incentive to encourage political change in North Korea, because if they were successful it would lead to the collapse of the regime and any social stability in North Korea requiring South Korea to absorb the failed socialist experiment in the north. It can’t afford it.

    When West Germany was forced to absorb the failed socialist experiment to its east, the cost to the west was enormous – but East Germany’s population was only a quarter of the west’s and its economy wasn’t a total basket case with GDP per capita more than half of that in the west (see this table: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_the_German_Democratic_Republic#Comparison_with_the_West_German_economy ) This meant West Germany (ie its taxpayers) could pay relatively easily for the reunification and the social and economic gap between eastern and western Germans wasn’ massive (western radio and TV had been illegally watched in the east and travel wasn’t impossible).

    In contrast, North Korea’s population is about half of the South’s while its per capita GDP is something like only 5% of the South’s, and the population (presumably given the nature of the regime) totally socially unprepared for living in a free society. Reunification would be a catastrophe for the South, which would be bankrupted and need to be bailed out by its US and western allies (who currently can’t afford it).

    So the best strategy for Obama is to do nothing that will change the geo-political situation for the time-being (which is not to say he should be hostile to the new lad, just that he better hope he is not a Gorbachev). This is very bad news for the people of North Korea (not that they are likely to know it) but probably good news for most of the rest of the world.

    • higherstandard 3.1

      That’s a rather depressing view Matthew.

      • In Vino Veritas 3.1.1

        Socialism is a depressing thing higher.

        • mac1

          And I have my doubts with a system that puts 200,000 children in poverty, nearly 7% officially out of work (actually about 10%), where 100,000 leave for Australia and there is nett outwards migration, where illiberal employment laws apply and where unions are discouraged, and where the gap between rich and poor is growing. That, too, is depressing- especially where the elite of the now ruling party choose the successor to Party Leader from successful money traders……..

          • alwyn

            Cheer yourself up Mac.
            Try having a look at
            It includes things like –
            “New Zealand has one of the fastest growing Western economies”.
            “The United States and Europe are in complete disarray”.
            There. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

            • Lanthanide

              Other countries are worse off so we should count our blessings?

              Defeatist, and again, depressing.

            • mac1

              It doesn’t make me feel better when a large percentage of my fellow citizens, friends, compatriots do not join in with joy at your glad tidings, alwyn.

              Fairness, equality, and the application of the Golden Rule -“Do unto others as you would have do unto you”- that would make me feel better. Thanks for asking, though.

        • Ari

          North Korea doesn’t have socialism, it has authoritarianism.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.2

        It’s also realistic.

        People make the mistake of thinking South Korea is a high-tech developed country because they have big companies like Samsung and they have amazing cities full of high rise buildings.

        On the GDP per capita tables it’s in the bottom half of the middle bloc of developed countries.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          GDP figures (and all official measures) for SK are misleading because they have a massive (something like 30% of the total) grey economy. It’s largely unregulated, untaxed and unmeasured. So you could probably add 10-20% to GDP per capita for SK. Pushing it up closer to NZ standard of living.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            And they are kind of high tech. You can get almost anywhere in the country (about the size of the South Island) in under 5 hours due to bullet trains and highways. It costs 45 NZD and take 3 and a half hours to get from Busan to Seoul. About the distance of Invercargill to Timaru.

            The entire country is wired for 100Mb internet. That includes little podunk towns and islands. They just opened the second longest submerged tunnel in the world and the world’s deepest immersed roadway tunnel.

            Having said that, a great many of those fancy high rise apartments and office buildings are made from the cheapest materials in the shortest amount of time. And the units within them are some of the most expensive in the world. So, there is that.

            • Tiger Mountain

              Thanks for that description of hell on earth RS.

              • Rusty Shackleford

                I’m not sure what you find hellish about fast internet and fast transport.

                • McFlock

                  I’m sure it’s fine, right up until a department store falls on your head for no reason.

                  • Rusty Shackleford

                    That was pre-fast internet. ; )

                  • DavidW

                    Oh there was a reason for the collapse of the department store and it sure as hell wasn’t divine intervention.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      My understanding is, it was corrupt city bureaucrats.

                    • McFlock

                      More that it was “made from the cheapest materials in the shortest amount of time.” 
                      Yeah, the inspectors looked the other way, but it’s not like they expected the building to fall down – nobody did. Everyone just took the cheapest and easiest course of action, with a healthy dose of “didnae think aboot that” thrown in.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Not just city inspectors who looked the other way. Builders, supervisors, shift managers, project managers, architects, site engineers,…the list goes on.

                      Once you build a society which works like this, well you turn into Greece.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      “Once you build a society which works like this, well you turn into Greece.”

                      Public Debt as % of GDP.
                      Korea: 22%
                      Greece 116%

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Ahem. As an example. The UK looks great if you just consider just its sovereign debt. Once you include private sector debt its carrying up to 10x (9.5x actually) its GDP in debt.

                      The UK is fucked, it just doesn’t know it yet. IMO you have to count all debt, not just sovereign debt (and not just net debt).

                      At least the UK has already recapped its banks, which is one saving grace.

            • Draco T Bastard

              The entire country is wired for 100Mb internet.

              Yep and it was the government who put it in place. Just think, if we’d kept our telecommunications instead of giving it away to the capitalists we would have had the same or even better.

              • Rusty Shackleford

                ermm…. That would have been a financial disaster. NZ is probably twice the size of Korea with one 20th the population density. Wiring all of NZ for cable internet would likely bankrupt the country.

                • DavidW

                  If you take away the sharp hilly bits, the population density is very high in what is left.

                  • Rusty Shackleford

                    Which country are you talking about? Korea is probably 80% sharp hilly bits.

                    • DavidW

                      Exactly my point, last time I looked there were bugger all people living on the sharp hilly bits which concentrates the population on the benign flatter bits somewhat.

                      Re Sampoong Department Store it was a total clusterfuck from the day it was first built with corners cut in construction etc but the kicker was that they later put a large (I think Olympic size but might be wrong) swimming pool in the Gym on the top floor then loaded the roof with a couple of hundred tons of evaporative aircon equipment. The supporting pillars had been downsized AND reduced in number during construction to gain floor space for the store.

                      re Apartment blocks, I understand that they are working their way through the duds which were built when the real boom was on in the ’70s and ’80s and materials were scarce so some smartasses used unwashed beach sand in the concrete. This resulted in what you might term “fast corrosion” and rendered thousands of apartments uninhabitable after 10-15 years or so. Largely the result of an economy growing so fast that the infrastructure could not keep up.

                      That is a hard one if you think about how you would manage it better without slowing the pace so much that you defeated the energy and impetus.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Largely the result of an economy growing so fast that the infrastructure could not keep up.

                      I guess that’s another term for blatant profiteering and graft.

                  • jbc

                    Population densities:

                    Auckland Supercity: 304 /km2
                    Singapore: 7,315 /km2
                    Seoul: 17,288 /km2

                    Singapore has 5M population in about the same area as the former Manukau City, and Singapore is less than half the population density of Seoul.

                    Which flat piece of NZ has very high population density? (not counting the 4m2 around where you now sit)

                • Colonial Viper

                  Wiring all of NZ for cable internet would likely bankrupt the country.

                  I don’t understand your attitude. We managed to get powerlines to every part of the country (eventually) did we not?

                  You could cover 97%-98% of the population in a Government project stretching out 8-10 years, selling bandwidth to ISPs around the country as you go.

                  Sure its not 100% coverage but you would get close at a practical price, and you wouldn’t try to do it all in 24 months.

                  • Rusty Shackleford

                    A. The Koreans didn’t do it that way. They deregulated the telecommunications industry, encouraged competition. Then subsidized the marginal areas (I could be forced into agreeing with that).

                    B. I don’t believe you.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      A) It wasn’t competition that did that but government intervention. Quite simply, the government led.

                      B) That’s because you don’t believe in reality. Anything that goes against your delusional ideology you disbelieve as a matter of course and reality goes against that ideology.

                    • McFlock

                      ooo hell, why not look at some reference material? Wikipedia will do, and has some good links.
                      A billion dollars in loans from the government at preferential rates is neither getting out of the way, nor does it really count as “marginal”. Yes, deregulation occurred in the 80s and 90s, but it seems that you’re cherry-picking your contributing factors, Rusty.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Rusty also hasn’t commented what the impact of massive cut price competition and infrastructure duplication has meant for the profitability of the private enterprises. Or if the government is keeping operations afloat with direct and indirect subsidies of various kinds.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  That would have been a financial disaster.

                  Considering that Telecom was running a $310m ($472m in today’s dollars) profit while putting in brand new digital exchanges and running thousands of kilometres of cabling when we sold it I suspect the chances of it being a financial disaster would be about zero.

                  • Rusty Shackleford

                    A. The Korean govt took the lead by getting out of the way? Interesting. I’m not even really disagreeing with you. Just pointing out that they didn’t build any of it themselves.

                    B. This isn’t really an argument. It’s too easy just to just say “I know you are, but what am I?”, when you spout stuff like that.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      They didn’t get out of the way but actively involved themselves (PDF).

                      Government support. The government has facilitated broadband development through an early commitment to high-speed infrastructure with specific programs. This has included a positive and supportive relationship with the private sector, low interest loans and a certification program for apartment complexes with high-speed access (for more detail on the government’s support see Box 3.1).

                      If they’d just gotten out of the way then they would have had the same mess that we have. Billions gone overseas and having to cough up billions more through taxpayer funding to get what we’ve already paid for (The perfect proof that profit is a dead weight loss).

          • Lanthanide

            Ok, wasn’t aware of that. That does make a bit more sense.

          • mik e

            Every other country has a grey economy to .Use your grey matter

            • Rusty Shackleford

              My understanding is that Korea’s underground economy is large relative to its standing in the world economy.

    • Gosman 3.2

      That stated Matthew I seem to remember the same argument being used back in the mid 1990’s at the time of the last transition from Father to Son. At the time it was stated that South Korea didn’t want a rapid collapse of the North as they wanted time to prepare a plan for absorbing the country. I would hope that in the intervening 15 odd years that they have something solid in place in terms of planning for dealing with this. One solution to a rapid collapse might be to quarrantine the country to a degree using UN and South Korean troops and for the UN to manage the transition to democracy. Kind of like what happened in Cambodia and East Timor.

    • Pete 3.3

      At present, the only way to engage with NK is via China and China’s interests are regional stability, (not freedom, democracy and all that good stuff). They don’t want a lot of refugees crossing the border. The odds of reunification are slim at best. I think the best we can hope for is getting some food aid through to the population at large and maybe a Burma-style baby-step rapprochement.

      • insider 3.3.1

        Or China could play an increasing role to drag NK out of the mire through trade and tech transfer. That said, they may be happy having that buffer there. Improvement in NK economy would probably promote more thoughts of reunification.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.4

      When West Germany was forced to absorb the failed extreme capitalist experiment to its east…


      None of the so-called communist countries of last century were socialist. They were all state-capitalist which is, of course, why they failed as the entire global economy is now also failing.

    • Bored 3.5


      Does the name East Germany mean anything to you? You must know it, it is the formerly run down Communist basket case next doors to the former economic powerhouse called West Germany. I recall clear as crystal the same doom mongers saying it would wreck Germany, you know the same place that is the current powerhouse of Europe. Could never be done they said, but, well it all turned out differently.

      Then there were those other Communist basket cases that did not stand a show, Russia, Poland and wait for it….China. Ye Gods Matthew you must get out more.

      • Populuxe1 3.5.1

        Bored, I think that if you spoke to some Germans (I’m not, but it’s an area of interest for me) you might get a different opinion on that. Germany is still lumbering on under the burden of a 7% tax (the Soli) to fund infrastructure in the former GDR even though 65% of former East Germans have moved west for jobs. Something like €1.25 trillion was transferred east by 2005 and even now the East is only around 70% at parity with the West. As early as 1991, Die Zeit reported former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt saying “The worst mistake was that the government gave the impression that German unity could be more-or-less financed out of petty cash.” There will be no second Wirtschaftswunder like that born of the reconstruction funded by the Marshall Plan after the war. I think you also have an overly rosy picture of, say, Poland – it’s fairly dire there – hence all the plumber jokes in the UK. I hope I haven’t wittered on too long – peace and Season’s Greetings.

        • Colonial Viper

          However, Germany is the wealthy centre of Europe of the day. They’ve achieved this in the last 10 years by forcing their neighbours on the periphery of Europe to become poorer via fixed exchange rate policies while organised labour has demanded its fair share of GDP. German exports to Greece, Italy, Spain etc. have risen dramatically, increasing German wealth but causing industries in those countries to struggle.

          German taxes are high yes, but that gives the German government fiscal muscle and the ability to provide excellent social services; the infrastructure building in the former East Germany you speak of provides many jobs skilled and unskilled. Unemployment is low and per capita incomes are very good.

          The only problem is that German banks are impossibly leveraged, if their assets were marked to market they would all be immediately insolvent, and they are going to send the German economy underwater shortly. But that’s a problem for 2012.

          Froehliche Weihnachten!!!

          • Populuxe1

            Herzliche Weihnachtsgrüße CV! I agree to a point, but as you said, the banks are leveraged to the hilt. Worker burn-out is at an all time high in Germany right now – it’s a major public concern according to their news reports. Also reunification is causing a lot of problems with a particularly ugly neo-Nazi revival in the old east spreading west. Unification was always going to happen, German national identity wouldn’t allow otherwise, but it isn’t all milk and honey, and Deutsche Wiedervereinigung took place back in ’89/’90 when West Germany was already one of the top performing European economies and East Germany was probably the most efficient of the Warsaw Pact economies. This hardly compares with the situation on the Korean Peninsula where South and North are rather unique. Also one must factor in China and Japan, and what they want – I doubt anything other than a stable and compliant North would suit either of them.

            • Colonial Viper

              No problem at all with your comments. I hear that sentiment against Turkish, Iranian and other immigrants in Germany is not friendly in some quarters, and getting less so progressively.

              I hold fears if there is a Europe wide economic slowdown, neo Nazi groups always do well during economic strife – just as Hitler did originally.

              Re: east asia – Japan is in deep deep demographic and debt driven economic do-do. That society is enroute to a gradual failure and with at least 25% of its population already over 60 their prospects are grim in the next 20 years.

        • billy fish

          Re Poland being “pretty dire” I think you will find that was in the late 90’s early 2000’s. Since then Polands economy has grown signinficantly and a lot of the diaspora had returned home. There were some excellent docos on the Beeb about it.
          Can’t speak to its current state but from what I have read it wasn’t a borrow and pray state. Will look into it.
          And brits tend to cling to cliches about people a lot longer than anyone else “two world wars and one world cup” anyone?

          • Populuxe1

            Point taken, Billy – I was basing that on what I had heard from the Polish community here in NZ, and from friends in Central/Eastern Europe. The Czechs, for example, are quietly slightly pleased that they hadn’t gotten around to joining the Eurozone just yet.

    • drongo 3.6

      It won’t be the young man who’ll be calling the shots in the north and the level of support in the south for reunification is overwhelming. If the south’s government don’t listen to that support watch out for mayhem in Seoul.

      • insider 3.6.1

        “calling the shots…”

        I hope you don’t mean that literally.

        • McFlock

          Sadly it probably will be literal – but hopefully restricted to offshore islands and unidentified submarines.
          As an aside, the phrasing that always distracts me is “an exchange of [often artillery] fire”. Provokes imagery of courtesy or business cards. Probably one of the earlier military euphemisms, preceding “collateral damage” or “harrassment and interdiction fire”.

          • insider

            I think it’s because they take turns 🙂 ‘After you Mr Kim.’ ‘No, please, I insist after you Mr Kim.’ ‘Well that’s very good of you Mr Kim. don’t mind if I do.’ ‘My pleasure sir.’ Boom! ‘Oh good shot Mr Kim.’

    • mik e 3.7

      Mathew maybe the world could come together and get a Marshall type plan going and not leave it to South Korea most likely scenario.
      As per usual Mad Hatter you have been navel gazing to long it can make you very ill mentally ill.

  4. Armchair Critic 4

    Ignoring your childish jibes, your argument is that it’s necessary for the people of NK to live appallingly poor lives because the alternative is a negative financial outcome. We can’t afford for them not to live in poverty, they have to or it would ruin the rest of us. Other people’s freedom is not as valuable as yours? No one should even try to help, the consequences are too expensive?
    That’s a disgusting attitude, a pathetic argument and you should be ashamed to have thought it.

    • Craig Glen Eden 4.1

      Its Mathew Hooton you are talking to AC! Enough said really

      • tc 4.1.1

        Yup it’s that old ….I have more than enough and you don’t have enough so screw you neighbour I don’t care just keep to your side of the fence.

        The more things change the more they stay the same, it’s rather scary the US is seen as a leader in such issues……mmmm that’s working well so far around the globe.

  5. Ianupnorth 5

    I feel I have wandered in to a parallel universe, where Gossy, HS, IVV and all the regular RWNJ’s are having their Christmas tea party.
    Whilst not admonishing Kim Jong Il I do find it rather distasteful that everyone seems to be feasting on humour rather than letting the bloke rest in peace.

  6. Leverett 6

    It’s that kind of self-righteous moral display – “damn the expense! Where’s your humanity?” – that made North Korea, North Korea, East Germany, East Germany, Tanganyika into Tanzania. For, despite the scientific pretensions of state socialism, it’s lifeblood was the (mostly noble) moral allure of a world where the immediate needs of the massses demonstrably trump economic imperatives.

    If there is any lesson that we can all take from the failures of the Marxist crop wherever sown, it is that we must have regard to the consequences of our choices, over and above our good intentions in demanding action.

    After more than half a century chasing the mirage of repressive state autarky, North Korea cannot be turned around by the power of good intentions – not without bankrupting South Korea. The only thing that can be done is the exertion of external pressure on the regime to abandon economic centralism in favour of liberalisation.

    South Korea started with less than North Korea has now – it started out as poorer than sub-Saharan Africa. North Korea can follow that path, but it will have to do so itself. Being bailed out by the South won’t cut it.

    • McFlock 6.1

      Being bailed out by the South won’t cut it.

      Why not? the south were bailed out by the US.

      • DavidW 6.1.1

        Maybe you should read a bit more. South Korea was given aid as an extremely poor country but in terms of building a productive economy the Korean people can rightly claim the prize for doing it themseklves. It is a fascinating story starting with Sygman Rhee and progressing through the development of the Chaebol to become what they are today. Unlike trhe Marshall Plan in Europe(particularly Germany) theer was no great financial “rebuilding aid” given to Korea after 1954

        • Colonial Viper

          Yes but don’t wholly discount the US military spending large amounts of hard currency into the South Korean nation directly and indirectly with the stationing of bases and huge numbers of skilled personnel in country over decades.

        • McFlock

          While I tend to agree that the success of South Korea’s economy is largely self-directed, South Korea still received billions of dollars in aid from the US in the two decades after the ceasefire began. While it was spread over four or five times the period of the Marshall Plan, the values were comparable or greater than the amounts givien to individual nations in the MP. 
          One would hardly expect the reconstruction aid to South Korea to equal the amount given to all of Western Europe.

          • McFlock

            damn – missed the edit window. Knock yourself out with   this. Figure 2 is a kicker – includes US economic and military aid in the chart.

          • DavidW

            At the time, Korea was largely an agricultural economy with a GDP per capita less than the North. Much of the aid was in the form of humanitarian assistance, rice, seeds, milk powder and the rebuild of institutions such as schools and universities. Interestingly quite a bit of the infrastructure built by the japanese survived and railways were always efficient. The breweries grew from what the Japanese left behind as well so at least the trains run on time and the beer is not half bad.

            The rest – well have a look at the life story of Chaiman Chung of Hyundai, and the Kims (or was it the Lees – I get confused sometimes) of Samsung. Fascinating stories about how men with vision harnessed the desire of large numbers of poor uneducated but willing people who really really wanted to do better for their families after experiencing the horrors of a brutal and bloody war conducted in their own backyards.

            The result is both South Korea’s curse and the source of its great and vibrant economy.

            • Rusty Shackleford

              “…the beer is not half bad.”

              You just disqualified yourself from ever being allowed to comment on South Korea again. ; )

              SK has some of the worst beer in the world. My understanding is the Americans gave them their beer which is why it all tastes like Budweiser. On the other hand, NK bought a whole factory off the Germans which is why they actually have better beer than the South.

              The main beer company Hite, makes a big deal about it’s special edition it brings out once a year that actually contains hops. This year it was Nelson hops. Last year it was South African hops for the World Cup. Both of the main companies, Hite and Oriental Breweries (OB) have more “premium” lagers that are drinkable. Probably on par with and Export and Export Dry.

              The only beer I’ve had that is worse is Mongolian beer.

              • DavidW

                OB and Hite on Seoul Summer’s evening go down rather well (after cricket especially). The NK beer I was served in Pyonyang was crap of the first order. Our intelligence officer “minder” took us to his “pub” which was a boat moored in the river and there they served Asahi which was a bit old but tasted like nectar after a few rounds of “dipshida” on whisky with the hosts – thank goodness no Soju in sight.

                • Rusty Shackleford

                  This is true. It seems to complement fatty meat also.

                  I bought my NK beer from the DMZ tour shops. The NK soju had a weird faux whiskey type flavor. Perhaps it was made from the real recipe. My favorite joke is when people ask what soju is made from is to say it’s made from the household food scraps that Korean people are so fastidious about separating from their regular trash collection. I’ve never found a definitive account of what it is made from.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Soju 🙂

                  I dont like it myself but the Korean girls all seem to disappear it rapidly 🙂

                  • DavidW

                    Aaah Soju … dangerous stuff
                    It doesn’t really matter where the alcohol comes from (rice, potatoes are common even from Fonterra’s ethanol production from lactose but that more commonly goes to Kapan for Sochu -v similar stuff). The key point is that it is generally 25% ethanol and the rest variously water and volatiles – phenols etc. Thing to watch is the more fragrant it is the worse the hangover. I seem to recall Jinro Green as one of the more pure (ie it will still wipe you out but you feel better in the morning)

            • McFlock

              Yes indeed – and having authoritarian dictators also helped.

              But isn’t the point of economic aid to “teach a man to fish”? Part of what helped SK become the 3rd country in the world to develop a 1Mb chip in the 1980s was the education system and infrastructure developed 30 years before. It’s a bit rich to claim that South Korea turned itself into a productive economy and that the billions in aid it received leading up to that point had nothing to do with it.

            • Populuxe1

              Those “men with vision” basically ran unregulated and corrupt dynastic fiefdoms in symbiosis with equally corrupt military Juntas. Never raise that with a Korean, though, it is a matter of national faith that it was all good and absolutely necessary – and perhaps it worked for them.

    • Ari 6.2

      You’d think some other countries would be willing to chip in to see North Korea transition into part of South Korea instead of remaining a rogue state.

  7. insider 7

    Kim Jong Un? I thought he was Kim Jong Trois…

  8. lostinsuburbia 8

    The real decisions on North Korea’s engagement with the West will be made in Beijing. I can’t see the Chinese wanting to lose a buffer state on their northeast boundary.

    China isn’t undergoing glasnost so there won’t be a peaceful disengagement from its satellite a la the USSR in 1989/1990.

  9. Tiger Mountain 9

    North Korea is still a player. If an awful degraded bizzare player. Not under the finance capital thumb, and not participating in the global 24 hr digital money go round.

    Which is what gets the usual suspects here rabbiting on. Oh that the “Hollowmen” were as concerned over other (capitalist) nations with hard done by populations.

    Get it straight, the right wingers here want even deficient “socialist states” extinguished.

  10. joe90 10

    Vice takes the Trans-Siberian to visit North Korean labour camps in Russia.

    NORTH KOREAN LABOR CAMPS – PART 1.(auto play through seven parts)

    Also: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/12/15/world/asia/north-korean-labor-camps-in-siberia/index.html

  11. Tiger Mountain 11

    Be nice if you posted an opinion now and again rather than usually just linking joe90. Do you have some sort of expression impediment? no probs if that is the case. What are you alluding to here anyway?

    The “misleaders verses misled or subjugated” remains an important distinction when looking at what many western analysts regard as the basket case of N Korea.

    Labor (USA sp.) camps, what a joke, we have Pacific Island/back pack euro trash labour camps all around this country (ie horticulture picking). All over the world willing, duped, coerced nationals go to where they can get an earner. Some forced by personal circumstance, others by governments.

  12. DavidW 12

    lostinsuburbia gets it – but it is bigger than that.

    China doesn’t want to see Korea unified because that would give it a west-sympathetic capitalist neighbour on a land boundary.

    Japan doesn’t want to see Korea unified because it would potentially create another economy that would be further capable of displacing Japan than South Korea is currently.

    The South are both publicly keen on re-unification but privately scared shitless at the prospect of what it would do to the South Korean economy to unify (although a fair number of South Koreans get excited at the prospect of cheap, ignorant housemaids and factory workers).

    The US – just really wants the Korean conflict to go away because it costs a fortune to keep 30,000 combat ready troops there on constant rotation.

    The Russians are quite happy for the US to be kept in a state of tension on the Korean Peninsula – it is both amusing to watch and distracting for the US.

    The rest of the world is just pissed off at the constant reneging on deals, the drug trafficking and the arms trade (potentially nuclear) emanating out of North Korea and would do something to bring unification about but doesn’t know what to do and anyway the locals (above) will make the decisions.

    In short there is really no great enthusiasm for a sudden collapse of the Pyonyang regime. The best the west can hope for is gradual opening up though the special industrial and trade zone at Kaesong and internal revolution as a result of the population finally realising that they have been played all these years.

    • lostinsuburbia 12.1

      The other fear is that if North Korea goes tits up there could be the mother of all arms bazaars. After all what terrorist/freedom fighter wouldn’t want some of the NK army’s arsenal (albeit antiquated), especially the likely caches of biological and chemical weapons.

      While any international force could secure most of their weapons, batshit crazy nations like North Korea like to hoarde weapons all over the place and given the number of weapons it has, even a few leaking outcould be very bad news.

  13. lostinsuburbia 13

    In addition, many of the elite are implicated in crimes against humanity one way or another that an easing of control or democracy would risk them ending up at the Hauge.

    Remember that the USSR had almost 40 years to get over Stalinism before it dissolved itself. North Korea has never left that style of governance.

  14. randal 14

    nice spotting tiger 90.
    when the red angel comes and the teevee is gone.
    and hey mr.
    you can tell the whole wide sky.
    my name is johnny.
    johnny pissoff.
    the village fugs.
    river of shit or johnny pissoff meets the red angel of death.
    merry christmas.

  15. Tiger Mountain 15

    Heh. Go randal. Point taken.

    “Merry syphilis and a Happy gonorrhea” my partners Dad used say to all and sundry. Seemed archaic and mildly subversive at the time. WII vet and all. “Merry Bollocks” does it for me.

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