North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress

By Hy-Sang Lee | Go to book overview

6
1980s: Frantic Drive for Power and
Vigilance for Survival

OVERVIEW

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) saw dark clouds on the horizon as it turned to the 1980s. It found its close ally the People’s Republic of China engaged in profound reforms. A radical restructuring was soon to follow in the Soviet Union. Adding insult to ideological injury, the International Olympic Committee decided in 1981 to award Seoul the honor to host the 1988 Summer Olympiad. Seoul’s Olympiad trophy was a compelling sign that Pyongyang was losing in the interKorean contest for economic power and international prestige. Despite such ominous developments, the DPRK used the 1980s to redouble its drive for power: There was no turning back. In fact, the drive for power turned frantic, as it involved several mammoth construction projects. They were designed in gigantic scale in part to boost international prestige and in part to serve the military and civilian sectors simultaneously. Some of the huge projects were so hastily designed in unproven Juche technologies that they ended up either unfinished or vastly underutilized upon completion. Failing to receive value back after delivering colossal amounts of resources to those projects, the economy became seriously drained during the eighties. This drain on resources notwithstanding, the DPRK continued to expand its armed forces, both the overall forces and the commando troops. The indigenization of the technologies for weapons of mass destruction also was completed in the eighties. While squandering resources so prodigiously in defense buildup and prestige projects, however, the Juche socialist regime took great care to implement

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