Monday, April 06, 2009

Kim Jong Il on borrowed time?

Via Jim Treacher on Twitter comes this Weekly Standard article speculating on the future of North Korea's Kim Jong Il.

Written nearly two weeks ago before North Korea launched its Happy Lotus Blossom With Peaceful Satellite™ (if you've ever bought fireworks before, you'll recognize that kind of thing), author Reuben F. Johnson suggests that Kim's regime may have entered the first stages of its demise.
Throughout history the initial signs of collapse of despotic regimes can usually be traced back to some apocryphal moment in which the armed forces, secret police or others charged with maintaining "public order" demonstrate that they no longer unquestioningly follow the orders of the dictator. There are famous stories from the 1917 Russian Revolution. For example, one of the dreaded crowd-suppressing Cossacks once winked at those demonstrating against Tsar Nicholas II rather than giving the standard order to mow down scores unarmed civilians. Another of the Tsar's Cossacks used his curved, razor-sharp cavalry sword to cut open sacks of state-owned grain for starving workers and peasants instead ordering a charge to cut them down Bloody Sunday-style. These and other similar moments are considered the beginning of the end for the Romanov dynasty.

Several recent analytical reports, including a study from the U.S. government's National Intelligence Council (NIC), are causing those watching the situation in North Korea to ask if we are not seeing a similar deterioration in the control over the military by the Kim Family Regime (KFR), as it is referred to by the U.S. military command in South Korea. Like the starving mobs in St. Petersburg who were demanding to be fed, the on-going food crisis in North Korea is having a crippling effect on the military establishment's loyalty to the Great Leader, and is permanently weakening the grip that the KFR has on the country.
The article also brings up a consequence of chronic and widespread malnutrition which had never occurred to me - large numbers of newborns with mental deficiencies:
According to findings of the NIC, around 25 per cent of those eligible for military service will be rejected due to mental retardation caused by lack of proper nutrition. Overall, intellectual deficiencies caused by hunger among the young will make future economic development of North Korea problematic. Thus, not only political subservience to the regime, but also the future viability of the military as a credible fighting force is at risk.
Yikes. The article points out the danger in drawing parallels between the reunification of Germany nearly 20 years ago and the potential reunification of the two Koreas in the event of collapse of the Kim dynasty. This one problem alone would be enough to make South Korea think twice about it.

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