Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Big News in North Korea - But What?

I first saw this on Ace. A story reported that pictures of North Korea's Kim Jong Il are being taken down. I didn't blog it because there was nothing else to the story, except for speculation as to why.

Now Mr. of Spades has an update, courtesy of Digger's Realm, and things get curiouser and curiouser, as the saying goes. The North Korean diplomat in Moscoa denied that the pictures were ordered taken down, which virtually guarantees that they were taken down. Ace has exerpted the money quote.

Instapundit notes (although this was in the NYT artilce quoted by Digger's Realm, as well) that the state-controlled radio broadcasts are no longer using the title "Dear Leader" when referring to Kim Jong-Il. That's huge, but the precise reason why they aren't using it is unclear. Instapundit also cites this article saying that, according to Colin Powell, North Korea might be easing its stance on nuclear talks. Let's keep in mind, as I continue this link round-up, the following quote from the last-linked source: "North Korea refused to attend a fourth round of talks planned for September because, experts believe, it was awaiting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election."

Again, this sounds huge, but no one seems to be saying anything particularly solid.

Via Instapundit, Roger Simon is speculating on a North Korean peace movement. He cites as evidence for this theory a Japanese news report that says political dissidents have been posting anti-North Korean pamphlets, something I would never ever do if I were in North Korea. Simon, for the record, believes that if anyone is going to take out Kim Jong-Il, it will be Team America. I can't complain about that analysis.

One of Roger Simon's commenters has provides this link to IndiaDaily, flatly stating that Kim Jong-Il has basically stepped down after deciding not to pull a Saddam, and this Reuters article saying South Korea plans on shipping fertilizer to the North to help with the famine.

Again, this sounds immensely huge.

But what does it all mean?

A. It means Kim Jong-Il is sick and/or dying. The Powers That Be recognize this, can't or don't want to perpetuate regime, and so are moderating their tone so they will be in a better bargaining position when Kim Jong-Il dies.

I don't care for this theory because The Powers That Be very, very rarely want to relinquish their power. That's not to say it's impossible, and it's certainly a plausible theory.

B. The North has started rising up against the government, and Kim Jong-Il wants to get out of the spotlight until the rebellion is crushed.

Bullcrap. I don't believe it for a second, because the first thing a totalitarian does when threatened from inside is safeguard the illusion of stability. There is absolutely no way whatsoever that he would remove the title "Dear Leader" from the radio broadcasts, because that is nothing less than a signal to everyone in the nation that something is not quite right. While it's nice to hope, the evidence just doesn't seem to jive with the theory.

C. Kim Jong-Il pulled a Libya, rather than an Iraq.

Perhaps. Kim Jong-Il is nuts, and so I don't know that I want to ascribe to him the rational capacity to know when it's time to give in to international pressure. On the other hand, I probably would have said the same thing about Ghadaffi. Perhaps more importantly, no one has mentioned any U.S. plans for a physical invasion of North Korea. U.S. policy so far has been containment, and as long as Iran keeps looking ready to boil over, I doubt anyone wants a "boots on the ground" scenario in North Korea. I just don't think we have the manpower for it. As long as North Korea can stall for time, I would guess they would stall for time. But then again, I would not have guessed that they would take down Kim Jong-Il's pictures, so take that for what it's worth.

D. Kim Jong-Il's cabinet members decided to pull a Libya, rather than an Iraq.

That's my pet possibility. They may have finally gotten the collective smarts enough to gang up on Dear Leader after W. won re-election, and they decided the center couldn't hold for another 4 years. South Korea's actions could be a calculated move designed to bolster the dissident cabinet members and shore up popular support. The cabinet quietly removes the portraits and the "Dear Leader" from the radio broadcasts, while Kim Jong-Il is kept out of the public eye to keep him from saying anything dumb.

That's my analysis, for what it's worth. Let's hope.

Update: It looks like North Korea has it's own website.

Update: Here's a map of North Korea, in case you care.

I couldn't agree more, guys.