As a result of the ongoing pro democracy uprisings in the Middle East, much attention has been given to these uprisings’ influence on North Korea and its possible inclination to follow suite. According to our reliable sources, the answer is a resounding no. The North Korean people do not seem to have any intention of starting a revolution.
Recently, a number of media outlets reporting on North Korean affairs have made connections between the Jasmine Revolution and the seemingly sudden changes in North Korea. They assume that popular discontent among the North Korean populace results from the influences of the Jasmine Revolution. These connections are demonstrably false. We have no objectively verified evidence that there is any major –or organized- friction between the Communist Party and the populace of the DPRK resulting from the influences of the current governmental instability in the Middle East.
This is not to say that the current situation in North Korea is entirely favorable to the ruling party. The failure of currency reforms and the ongoing turmoil surrounding the succession of power has certainly destabilized some political interests in Pyongyang.
We must analyze the information coming out of North Korea objectively, and not succumb to the temptation of generalizing the unique and sporadic incidents in North Korea as regular incidents, as if they imply an “impending” revolution. The perpetuation of unverified and incorrect information and incorrect analysis could portend to impediments for the peace process on the Korean peninsula and wrongheaded policy actions by the governments involved.
The NKSIS collects all of its information from primary sources within North Korea and examines and analyzes that information in an attempt to determine--and give an account of--the situation in North Korea as it exists in reality.
As opposed to unconfirmed and unverifiable media reports, Pyongyang is calm. Furthermore, positive progress for the Korean peninsula is much better served through careful analysis of concrete information than baseless media speculation and wishful thinking.
Consider China--North Korea’s ‘big brother.’ Chinese governmental policy is characterized by socialist political policies and capitalist economics. The Chinese people have far greater ability to voice their discontent than does the North Korean population, yet after the calls for protest advocating a Chinese style Jasmine revolution last February 27th there was only negligible dissent on the ground in China.
North Korea is far more insulated and repressed than China due to the leadership system of Suryong (the Great Leader). Every sector of North Korean society is distinguished by severe propaganda, repression and almost completely cut off from any outside information. Thus, it is very difficult to expect any type of civilian revolution within the DPRK notwithstanding the dissolution of the government independent of popular uprising.
The results of the anticipated demonstration in China--that it did not in fact actually materialize--are very important in regards to North Korea. (Obviously the location of the demonstration was significant: the Wangfujing, is in the vicinity of Zhongnanhai, where the Chinese government offices are centered, and that certainly could have influenced participation in the demonstration.) The level of democratization in China is much higher than that of its North Korean counterpart, and if this type of demonstration could not even get off the ground in China the likelihood of any such uprising in North Korea is not even nominal at best.
Some specialists in Chinese affairs have predicted the non-materialization of the February 27th protest in China emphasizing the difference between China and Middle Eastern countries. They said it will not be able to get widespread support from the public, and this proved to be right. Why was this so?
There are serious challenges for Chinese netizens. The Chinese government firmly controls access to the internet and mobile phone service, making communicating and organizing a protest through internet channels or SMS messages very limited. As we well know, social network service (SNS) systems played a vital role in the Jasmine revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and the rest of the uprisings in the Middle East. Without free access to Facebook and Twitter, the likelihood of successfully organizing a mass protest is unlikely due to government inference.
In North Korea’s case, it is not just that netizens face challenges, but that there are not any netizens. North Korea is thoroughly isolated from foreign internet through the DPRK’s Intranet System which is completely controlled by the government. North Koreans cannot communicate any information about civil dissent or government resistance, and they do not have any medium to organize a normal type of meeting let alone a mass protest against their government.
Another important respect in which North Korea differs from the countries in the Middle East that are currently undergoing political upheaval, and makes the likelihood of a Jasmine style revolution almost impossible in the DPRK, is that there is no real core resistance group and the public consciousness willing to fight against injustice, who could rise up and follow their lead.
However, we missed a good chance to awaken North Korean populace with sense of democracy and human rights which would have allowed them to organize themselves for a movement, as a result of 10 years of "Sunshine Policy (Engagement Policy)." During this period of time, as Seoul provided absolute support toward Pyongyang, the leftist and pro North Korean forces had been gaining ground under the guise of "democratic and progressive powers" in South Korea. These were the people who did not even understand what leftism truly meant, claiming themselves to be masters of Juche(Self-reliance) Ideology after reading several books on Marxism-Leninism or some North Korean books with beautified description of Juche Ideology. By them, the direction of our policy toward North Korea was shifted, from attempting to democratize it by the will of its civilians, to encouraging the dictator's regime with Military First policy, to be democratized by their own will, which is practically impossible.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of North Korean opposition leaders moved to South Korea during the Korean War. Moreover, the remaining resistance was rounded up and sentenced to death in the name of ‘political crime’ by Kim Jong-il in the 1970s. Consequently, there is no real opposition (in any organized sense) to the North Korean Communist Party. This is in stark contrast to the popularly supported opposition groups existing in the Middle Eastern countries now pursuing democratic reform. Though some exiled opposition leaders returned after the uprisings began in the Middle East, the majority of the initial organization and support was domestic. This is not a possibility in the case of North Korea.
In conclusion, we cannot find any real evidence to support the possibility for revolution in North Korea at this point in time. Though this may be the case, we should at least support the idea that the North Korean populace can and does discern between justice and injustice in their society and government. The people of North Korea may not currently have any mode for expressing dissent, but we should do our utmost not to miss another chance to provide what means we can to set the foundations for positive social and political change in the future for the North Korean people.
Most importantly, we need to build a more positive political environment for the possibility of a popular uprising in the DPRK. We should concentrate on infiltrating the North Korean government and supplanting the current authoritarian leadership with politicians who could lead the civil uprising. We should establish such core opposition group inside the elite society of North Korea, that could possibly lead the eventual transformation of its government and perpetuate a lasting peace for a unified Korean peninsula.
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