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- North Korea is a problem, not only because of its fast advancing nuclear and missile program but also because of the sorry state of the country’s economy and its abysmal human rights record. It is a problem for us outsiders, but it is an even greater problem for the North Korean people themselves. As people are fond of saying in such situations that "something has to be done." But what exactly?
- "How to solve a problem like North Korea?" (18 July 2017), NK News
- [T]here has been little, if any, doubt that nothing short of a massive regime collapse, or (even more violent and bloody) full-scale war, will ever produce a non-nuclear North Korea. The regime is run by cold-minded and rational people who cannot afford to be emotional...
- "After the Pyongyang debacle, it’s not clear where U.S. policy goes from here" (9 July 2018), NK News
Kim Jong Un's Popularity, Explained (September 2015)
- "Kim Jong Un’s popularity, explained: Despite purges, third generation of Kim rule maintains approval", NK News (27 September 2015)
- The great famine of 1994-98 was to a large extent the inviolable result of the policies that Kim Il Sung had pursued for decades. The famine was brought about by Kim Il Sung’s fanatical belief in a hyper-centralized, state-managed agriculture, as well as an excessive reliance on (unacknowledged) foreign aid, not to mention militarization run amok. However, if the mine was planted (unintentionally, of course) by Kim Il Sung, it went off under the rule of his son. Hence, most North Koreans blame Kim Jong Il, rather than his father, for the economic disasters of the 1990s.
- For the average North Korean over the last two decades, the times of Kim Il Sung have often been seen as a lost era of order and stability, in which everyone could be sure that twice a month they would receive food rations sufficient for survival, and essentially free of charge. This was also a time when corruption was kept under control and was largely invisible, material inequality was also almost unnoticeable. Objectively speaking, it was Kim Il Sung’s policies that made the disaster of the 1990s unavoidable. But this had little impact on public perception, and he continues to be held in high esteem by many. Remarkably, such sentiments toward the late Generalissimo are even expressed by refugees – not usually known for their sympathies for the North Korean system and its embodiment, the Kim family. Thus, it is that Kim Il Sung remains venerated, and due to the luck of dying in time, has a remarkably good reputation in death. The opposite is very much the case with his unfortunate son, Kim Jong Il, who inherited power in 1994 and reigned for 17 turbulent years, till 2011.
The Folly of an Inter-Korean Confederation (October 2015)
- "The Folly of an Inter-Korean Confederation", NK News (October 2015)
- North Koreans now understand that South Korea is very rich. It is true, but there is a great difference between vaguely understanding something and having such graphic images of neighbors' prosperity flooding your daily life. As is usually the case, such pictures are liable to be exaggerated at first. An outsider in a rich country usually cannot immediately see the contradictions, problems and tensions that exist behind the sparking, glistening, glitzy facade. For the North Koreans, this picture of the South Korean prosperity would likely be seen as vivid proof of the complete failure of their leadership. The North Korean elite cannot even use the usual trick of putting the blame at the doors of their predecessors: This elite is hereditary, so the buck cannot be easily passed.
- The North Korean elite does have some sources of hope. The elite itself remains, on the surface at least, remarkably united. The lack of a civil society and very strong social control makes the emergence of resistance difficult.
- The unavoidable spread of South Korean capital and information will put the North Korean government in a tight spot, to put it mildly.
- Right now, no sane and unbiased person would be so stupid as to doubt that the North Korean state is very repressive.
- If a North Korean university professor is suspected of insufficient enthusiasm for the system, they will be gone without a trace very quickly. Even the memory of the unlucky victim would likely disappear, since such topics are best not discussed in North Korea.
Get Ready For Selective Amnesia (November 2015)
- "Get ready for selective amnesia: Expect northern Koreans to take a Russian or Japanese – not a German – attitude toward the past", Post-unification Korea, NK News (16 November 2015)
- Objectively speaking, the history of North Korean state has been one of an ambitious social if brutal experiment that ended in a very ugly disaster. Essentially, the 70 years of the Kim Family's rule have been the wasted years. The Kim family did not merely build one of the world’s most “perfect” Stalinist dictatorships, but also managed to transform into a basket case what once, in the 1940s, was the most advanced industrial economy of East Asia outside Japan. However, one should not expect that such a pessimistic, if honest, view of North Korea’s past, is going to be enthusiastically embraced by those North Koreans who bother to care about such matters.
- Encyclopedic article on Andrei Lankov at Wikipedia