Friday, February 4, 2011

Our (Old) Man in Pyongyang

If Witness to Transformation were not enough to convince you, the world, that the North Korean market is the only democratization game in North Korea right now, Radio Free Asia has some fragments of a talk given by Britain's former man in Pyongyang, John Everard, at KEI in Washington on the 2nd.

Money quote (translation me, apologies to Mr. Everard);

It is clear that in the jangmadang, they are not just haggling over products. People there are transmitting information on incidents such as public executions and floods occurring in various regions. Right now, the situation in Egypt is the talk of the jangmadang.

And from the presentation (in English here);

Markets thus present both an ideological and a political challenge to the regime, and it is unlikely to diminish. They are probably clearing houses for news and opinions, a role that may well grow as the regime’s information blockade crumbles and as information circulates more freely (through mobile telephones, for example). All together markets are one of the regime’s greatest domestic dilemmas—it loathes them and probably fears them, but it cannot close them down.

This is exactly what we should be looking for; news of successful revolutions around the world is dynamite. It is information which probably gets into North Korea via smugglers and/or radio stations broadcasting out of South Korea, and then spreads in the markets, a system which Everard notes that the regime hates, but cannot live without. In Everard's own words, "as so often in the DPRK, what the regime wanted was not always what actually happened."

And this is why we, the world, need to think long and hard before we start sending aid, any aid, to North Korea. There is ample evidence that the market is undermined by such aid and that smugglers are mines of information. The market: it's where the real sunshine is.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Chris; very concise but packs a strong punch. Perhaps Haggard and Nolan wind around about this issue of markets as exchange points of info, but never with such cogency, such urgency!