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    DPRK flirts with UNSC finger-wagging, capitalism

    Japan and the US are presenting a united front in threatening economic sanctions if the DPRK resumes nuclear development:

    Deputy Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Shotaro Taniuchi, now visiting the United States, met with Undersecretary (for Political Affairs) of State Burns at the State Department on 4 October. The two agreed on an approach, in the case of stepped-up nuclear experiments by North Korea, that would involve responding with a proposal for the adoption of restraints through the United Nations Security Council based on Article 7 of the United Nations charter.

    What they appear to be seeking is not full-on sanctions (as 制裁 is normally used to mean) but a warning–the usual approach of shoring up the North’s ego by making it feel important enough to alarm the great powers in the hopes that it will be mollified into backing off.

    BTW, the Asahi English site had this very interesting report about a tentative joint manufacturing project between the DPRK and ROK:

    But one recent incident suggests that the fledgling capitalist project may have much more far-reaching repercussions for the totalitarian society than either side envisions.

    It started when one of the South Korean firms that runs a factory at Kaesong asked its North Korean employees to work weekends. The workers’ leader expressed his opposition, arguing that the employees needed weekends to rest.

    But then the employees themselves spoke up and demanded to work weekends.

    “Who on Earth will enable us to make money to live?” said one. “We want to work more.”

    Their leader continued to be reluctant to get the go-ahead from Pyongyang. But the workers wouldn’t give up. If their leaders would not speak on their behalf, they would get permission from the government themselves.

    The flare-up speaks volumes about the poverty in which North Koreans live. But it also shows the powerful lure of capitalism in a country whose ruling Workers’ Party declares itself committed to fighting it tooth and nail.

    Kaesong may be funneling money straight to the North Korean government, but there are hints that North Koreans will not want to relinquish what little capitalism they have been given now that they have been given a taste of purchasing power.

    The US doesn’t like the joint venture, which it alleges (not implausibly) is providing money for the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program. It does seem to me, though, that the best chance of effecting change in the North Korean state is for enough of its citizens to see how much more prosperity even a modicum of economic liberalization can bring. Of course, it’s necessarily providing money for the current regime; but you have to start somewhere.

    I also liked this part:

    A unique “incentive system” has also sprung up in Kaesong. The Pyongyang administration forbids wage hikes, arguing that low pay is the complex’s competitive strength. So instead, employers use things like instant cup noodles, desserts, meat, fabric and small home appliances to keep their workers motivated.

    That’s unique? It sounds exactly like the methods American employers developed to get around high taxes by providing perquisites instead of pay. And in any case, isn’t the money for the cup noodles and appliances coming from somewhere–and being reflected in the selling prices of the goods?

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