North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress

By Hy-Sang Lee | Go to book overview

8
Conclusion and Policy Implications

The North Korean economy started to experience systemic crises beginning in the 1970s, as evidenced by emergent shortages of coal around which the economy had been structured in unique Juche style. But the regime took to managing all such fundamental crises in only one way— the self-reliant Juche socialist way. Although it would have been unsustainable for long in any ordinary society, the Juche socialist way has successfully kept the economy afloat to date because, in the final analysis, the regime has been willing and able to take any means—including mass starvation—to overcome adversity. North Korea survived the great famine of the 1990s, not through conventionally sensible economic adjustments, but through quintessential Juche socialist programs including foreign-resource suction through narrow openings and Darwinian management of population.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the North Korean economy still remains in dire condition, as evidenced by its continuing need for free foreign resources. The biggest foreign donations, the two nuclear power plants which would boost the survivability of the North significantly, are several years away from delivery. Foreign aid notwithstanding, the regime can be expected to continue to take cruel and indiscriminate means to sustain itself until the dedication of the nuclear plants. It is, therefore, incumbent on the outside world to rethink how to handle this regime, which is refusing to reform, which is staying alive far longer than expected, and whose menace grows more grave by the day.

One of the basic goals of this work has been to uncover the intentions of North Korea behind its refusenik-belligerent behavior. At this time, many observers are of the opinion that both the refusal to reform and

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