Daily NK (Part 1)
Han Young Jin
The reason North Korea’s regime can persevere is because of the central class’ fear of regime collapse.
As a result of this perseverance, North Korea has been able to resist isolation and pressure for more than half a century, with the system even defeating the “March of Suffering” where tens and thousands of people died of starvation.
Today, powers maintaining the North Korean system are the hierarchical upper class including the North Korean Workers’ Paryy, the National Security Agency, the National Protection Agency, prosecutors and adjudicators.
Overall, there are about 4 millions members in the North Korean Workers’ Party (statistics as of 1995), this being roughly 20% of the population. Retrospectively, these people control the 23mn North Korean citizens.
The central class incorporating junior secretaries to the party, training officers, novice elites, generals from the army, safety and protection agents use their power position to control directly the North Korean people.
The most of these people have strong loyalty for the regime. In particular, military generals or party officials especially fear punishment and the thought that their privileges may be removed. Though they may be leaders, it is not one’s own desire to escalate in power but fear of retaliation from new powers.
Local party officers, security agents and protection agents directly control, inspect and punish civilians. In essence, they absolutely control the North Korean people and hence fear direct retaliation from the people. The collapse of the regime, also means that they may become jobless and troublesome.
In the 80’s, there was an incident where the Kangkye Munitions Factory incurred an explosion. The people who thought that a war had risen killed the security agent in charge and threatened to evacuate the country regardless of war or not. The people armed with weapons even raided the home of the security agent in charge, with stones and batons. As this rumor spread, security officers throughout the country felt the tension and were all on alert. Hence, control forces even to the lowest rank have become the trustworthy pillar to the North Korean regime.
Since the early stages of the regime, North Korea trained members of anti-Japan protestors and their families, Mankyungdae Revolutionary Academies and distinguished servicemen from the Korean War. As a result, the mindset of North Korea’s central class is relatively high in societal class awareness, as is their loyalty to Kim Jong Il.
Ideology amidst the central class and brainwashed passion
These people believe that the survival of the North Korea system is directly connected to their lifeline. They fear that they will not be able to receive the same privileges given by Kim Jong Il, if the current North Korean regime were to collapse. They believe that Kim Jong Il’s fate is their fate.
The North Korean regime is currently strengthening the multiple control system for their central class so that the ideology of the class is not shaken and the principals of Kim Jong Il kept intact.
In North Korea, every position and decision is focused around Kim Jong Il and his every single word is glorified. In one sense, it is a specialty of the dictatorial regime, but in reality it is a way to force the upper class to stand in awe and even dread the grand Kim Jong Il. Some defectors, once members of North Korea’s elite say that people work having no conscious awareness of their heavy duty or how to modify words spoken by Kim Jong Il.
Educational jobs by the central class are different to that of the common citizen. As the former Soviet Union and Eastern European bloc was merging in the 90’s inflicting collapse to the regime, elite officials internally passed video tapes on the end of Romania’s former President Nicolae Ceausescu to calm other comrades but in the end stirred greater fear.
Recently, it is said that tapes on the Iraq situation have been televised for commanders and military elites to see. The aim of this viewing, to plant into the minds of the commanders that compromises to the protection of the system means death.
The Kim Jong Il regime gives privileges to inspire the people supporting them. For example, people who work for the Central Committee systems department or the elite propagandists, receive a Mercedes Benz with the number plate ‘2.16’ symbolizing Kim Jong Il’s own birthday, and depending on the position, the car series is upgraded.
Other elites from the Central Committee and figures in key military posts are provided with luxurious apartments in Pyongyang. The apartment blocks are built and located separately to the average house. Soldiers guard the homes, even restraining relatives from entering the apartment premises. These homes are furnished with electrical goods, sofas, food and goods made in Japan, as well as being accompanied with western culture.
As Military First Politics was implemented in the late 90’s, private nurses, full-time house maids, private apartments and country residences, private cars, office cars, as well as “recreational clubs” with beautiful women, were granted as privileges to the head military and provincial officers.
Every Lunar New Year, expensive foreign gifts are presented to the core central class. However, across the bridge, local and system secretaries, public control officers await common goods that can be found in South Korea’s supermarkets such as mandarins, apples, cigarettes and alcohol. Nonetheless, people who work for North Korea’s local offices are more than happy to receive these gifts are it distinctly segregates them from the common North Korean citizen.
OK to Capitalist Goods But NO to Capitalist Regime
Daily NK (Part 2)
Han Young Jin
The higher the class, the closer one is to the 2nd and 3rd tier network. If a person is discovered to be in opposition to the regime they will be brutally punished and so a person is cut off early if they are found to show any signs of anti-Kim Jong Il.
The people who inflict the greatest control are the military high commanders. North Korea’s military can be seen as a branch of national politics that really does represent half of the regime. Political elites from the military closely control high commanders with under cover spies whose job is to specifically tattle on suspicious officers to the Party. Then, the protection agency in command contacts an expert who equipped with bugging devices carefully monitors the high commander’s every move, 24 hours a day.
In addition to this, control over university students who are being trained to become North Korea’s next elite group is also severe. In order to intensify regulations on university students, the protection agency initiates secret movements. Protection agents and even information staff are grouped to control the student’s movement with one information staff in charge of monitoring every each 5 students.
Even amidst the Workers’ Party and the ministries, national safety agents are dispatched to monitor the elite.
“Capitalist goods are good, but reform is unacceptable”
Though envious of South Korea’s economic development, North Korea’s upper class are opposed to growth and reform.
There is a popular story of an elite North Korean official who visited the South and frankly revealed “Though we may crawl and be worn, we cannot follow South Chosun’s economy.” It is also a well known fact that elite officials preferred Samsung digital cameras and showed interest in Hyundai cars at a South-North Cabinet talks and Aug 15th event in Seoul. Nonetheless, when it comes to acknowledging the need for capitalist reform, North Korea’s central class discards it with a wave of the hand.
The reason that capitalist goods are preferred but reform rejected is a result of the ideology that their individual power will be lost with change to the regime. Those who have loyally followed authorities have no mindset nor special skills that will enable them to survive a capitalist system. Rather than confronting a competitive society, they prefer their current position and the glory that comes with it.
The central class is also well aware of the restraints on North Korea’s economy. Every year as the harvest season arrives, they see citizens march onto the fields malnourished and underfed. They know that the economic policy implemented by authorities has failed and is incoherent. Yet, ultimately they are unwilling to let go of the small privileges they are endowed upon by the preposterous and unreasonable regime.
These people have become accustomed to their power which is utilized to gain them their privileges and tyranny. Even if North Korea enters a famine, they need not worry about food or clothing.
For example, in the case of an official factory secretary, he/she satisfies ones own personal needs by selling factory goods. Using the excuse that factory profits are being raised, he/she orders the workers to engage in more work, on the side. This is how tyranny occurs with the factory secretary manufacturing personal gains. Yet, these officials are not punished with any legal sentences.
Newly-rich dualism, collaborative relationship with official powers
Following the July 1st economic measures in 2002 trade became legal and North Korea experienced a sudden boom in newly rich elites. What led this new rich class to accumulate so much wealth was the fact that they had introduced an enterprise system which allowed trade with China.
The newly rich have a great interest in reform and development, and are well aware that the North Korean regime will not be able to solve the economic issue without facing reform.
However even this class of people are disinterested in bringing an end to the regime. They have already accumulated their wealth and feel no onus in the poverty stricken situation in North Korea. Whether capitalism or the current North Korean regime, as long as they can sustain a living, these people can continue to remain in a dualistic mindset.
While North Korean authorities are strengthening control over this new class, they are in another sense, receiving money and bribes to protect them. Where investigations are involved, authorities are risking their own identities being revealed and hence often ignore the illegalities of the people, even going to the extent of passing on information.
It is a fact that North Korea’s central class is acting as the forefront in sustaining the regime, but then again, these people have greater educational standard than the average commoner and they have had more opportunities to experience Western civilization. Hence, they can compare the North Korean regime with the outside world. Though the majority of this class accommodates to the North Korea regime, the possibility that a fraction of the elites may have some sort of antagonism against the Kim Jong Il regime and the odds that these people may just act upon these feelings cannot be discarded.
In addition, as North Korean society continues to decay, the organization of its systemic corruption may just be hit with danger. As corruption deepens and a crack appears in the regime, authorities will try to control this leak but while doing so, it is possible that endless punishment may just incite some elites to secede.
Particularly, the more information about foreign communities flow into North Korea and the people’s animosity against Kim Jong Il increases, even the elite will not be able to completely suppress feelings of antipathy.