[From time to time CanKor alerts readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by John Feffer, a long-time friend and supporter of CanKor. John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of several books and numerous articles. His latest book, Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War against Islam, is being published this month by City Lights Press. In this outstanding article, Feffer analyzes the emerging new class system of North Korea. “Any policy toward North Korea,” according to Feffer, “must somehow take into account these three groups of people: the prospering, the struggling, and the incarcerated.” He lists projects that are currently being implemented by various actors that aim at an overall human security objective, which he believes is the best way to promote the well-being of North Koreans beyond the “golden couples” that represent the new entrepreneurial elite of the country. Please follow our link to the current article on the 38North site. –CanKor]
It’s not likely that an Occupy Pyongyang movement will set up tents in Kim Il Sung Square anytime soon. Protest, after all, is virtually non-existent in that society. But the same widening inequalities that plague the United States and the global economy can also be found inside North Korea. What was once a relatively equitable society, albeit at the low end of per-capita GDP, has been experiencing a rapid polarization in wealth. The implications of this widening gap on North Korean government policy—as well as on international policies promoting human security inside North Korea—are enormous.
The headlines coming out of North Korea these days are a study in contrasts. On the one hand, four separate international nutritional assessments in 2011 found chronic malnutrition that, according to the UN, affects one in three children under five. Although 2012 is the year of kangsung daeguk—an economically prosperous and militarily strong power—the overall statistics tell a different story. The North Korean economy, which had recovered somewhat by the beginning of the new millennium from its near collapse in the mid-1990s, contracted in both 2009 and 2010, according to South Korean sources. Pyongyang has been unable to wean itself from dependence on Beijing’s food and energy assistance, and, out of necessity, has negotiated lopsided deals with China over access to mineral wealth and ports. Farmers have been forced by the lack of fuel and spare parts to rely more heavily on manual labor. Workers steal from their factories to supplement meager salaries. The inability of North Korea to revive its agricultural and manufacturing sectors has adversely affected the larger bulk of the population, the broad class of workers and farmers who have relied on employment in state enterprises and state farms as well as food from the public distribution system. Read the rest of this entry »