In the show Diplomatic lunch let’s look at a very famous and popular country. Unfortunately, in the last seventy-five years, it has been known for very sad reasons. If this program had a name, it would be “Country from Tragic to Tragicomic”. We are talking about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea.
We talked about the brotherly country of South Korea, or the Republic of Korea, in April 2020, almost three years ago. And we would invite you to listen to that program in the archive, not only to refresh your memory, but also because the two programs, like the two countries, are mutually complementary. If we had the chance, we would probably do one 30-minute program about a unified Korea, because the story is so tragic.
If, when starting to talk about South Korea, we used the names of various world-famous companies to create the right associations, then North Korea’s brands are probably the ruling Kim dynasty and nuclear weapons tests.
It is precisely because of Kim’s political violence against the country’s own people, and also because of the constant threats to South Korea, Japan and the United States, that we know this country more than any other. Much has been caricatured and much imagined about the behavior of Kim and the North Korean state, of course, but the tragicomedy may unfortunately be its main defining element today.
There are three Kims who have ruled North Korea – Kim Il-sung, who ruled from the country’s founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. The other was his son, Kim Jong Un, who ruled officially until 2011. He started already in the last years of his father’s life. And finally, it is about the dictator of the moment – Kim Jong-un (Cyung-un). You could easily call this Kim the Third. Because there is a joke that the North Korean leaders are trying so hard to implement communism that they accidentally reverted to the monarchy.
Currently, there is talk of the Kim dynasty ruling North Korea. Especially in the context of the current ruling Kim’s daughter Ju Ai’s frequent appearances alongside her father. This suggests that the succession of power will happen for the third time as well. In fact, even more – the so-called “Bloodline of Pektu Hill” begins to acquire monarchical outlines more and more, because Kimi begins to associate himself with the legendary and mythical Dan Gun, who is so important in the history of the whole of Korea, who is considered the founder of the Korean state in 2333 BC.
North Korea’s tragic emergence is largely due to its neighbors’ efforts to control the entire Korean peninsula. The Japanese victory over the Russian Empire in 1905 resulted in Korea coming under Japanese rule and later complete annexation in 1910. After the defeat of Japan in 1945, the Korean peninsula was divided between the USSR and the USA along the famous 38th parallel.
And Russia, of course, regained its influence as the USSR, imposing communist ideology on northern Korea while the US forced southern Korea to develop along capitalist lines. What’s more, the USSR and China encouraged and supported North Korea’s attack on South Korea in 1950, which turned into a three-year war with nearly 3 million deaths and relatively microscopic territorial changes.
The changes were geopolitically significant. As a result of the war, a demilitarized zone was created along the 38th parallel. The earlier line of demarcation became over the years a de facto border of countries and a symbol of the division of one nation. Both sides hope to one day unite the two sides, but neither is going to give up their system and the correctness of their beliefs. Currently, crossing the 250 km long border is possible only at one point. It is also the place where soldiers stand closest to each other in the 4 km wide demilitarized zone.
This does not change the situation that four tunnels have been discovered and it is estimated that there could be around 20 others that North Korea has dug under the demilitarized zone in order to send soldiers into the territory of South Korea. In the demilitarized zone of Korea, you can find anti-tank barriers – walls, minefields, electric fences and barbed wire. That is, anything that would deter or at least stop infantry and ground vehicles from crossing the border in the event of a new war.
The basis of the North Korean state regime, without propaganda, state closure, concentration camps, is generally characterized by very strong state militarization and corruption. North Korea is among five of the six most corrupt countries in the world. This time, we asked Cynthia Helvig-Eichwald, chief inspector of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Office, about the functional significance of corruption in non-democratic regimes.
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