04 March 2005

Desperation, Delays and Demagogues

North Korea has delayed the planned meeting if the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), according to the KCNA.

Pyongyang, March 4 (KCNA) -- The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK Thursday announced a decision on postponing the third session of the 11th SPA. According to it, the Presidium of the DPRK SPA will postpone the session originally slated for March 9, Juche 94 (2005), at the requests made by deputies to the SPA in all domains of the socialist construction.
The date of the session will be set and announced publicly.

The decision comes as Pyongyang piles on the threatening comments, finally (almost) formally declaring itself a nuclear power, holding out on six-nation talks and calling an end to its already once renewed self proclaimed missile moratorium.

Why, one may ask, is the North postponing its regular meeting of the “praise and adulate Kim Jong Il” Assembly? My guess – regime change.

Regime change is something North Korea fears (if externally instigated) and is desperately seeking to prepare for (internally directed). One of the main reasons for the sudden flurry of North Korean threats and typical “evil” behavior is that the “outpost of tyranny” is desperate to force a resolution to its own fabricated nuclear crisis. Plain and simple, Pyongyang miscalculated with the 2003 nuclear crisis, and thought that there was little fundamental difference between the pre-911 Whitehouse and the post-911 Whitehouse. Oops.

Pyongyang wants to implement carefully controlled economic reforms, but fears doing so will open a path for Washington to undermine the North Korean regime – thus the push for a non-aggression treaty or even better a peace accord and formal diplomatic relations. But Kim Jong Il is also looking to begin laying the groundwork for his own successor – one of his sons – to avoid any potential confusion should Kim find himself suffering from a myocardial infarction while preparing his dacha for a visit from the South Korean president or packing his bags for the train ride to Seoul.

The first generation leaders are the few remaining contemporaries of Kim Il Sung. They are the true revolutionaries, the guerilla fighters who paid for their positions with frostbite and bullet wounds. They are mostly dead, but there are a few left, and they cant stand to see the degradation of North Korea, but cant really fathom the benefits of economic openings or market reforms. They wont be around much longer.

The second generation leadership – Kim Jong Il and his associates – are children of the revolution. Few have fought in wars, but most knew at least some privations as children. Their claim to power is the role their fathers played in the guerilla war against Japanese occupation. They are educated and trained in the Soviet bloc countries, have some knowledge of the need for economic changes, but fear for their grip on power.

The third generation leadership in South Korea – the sons of Kim Jong Il and his contemporaries – are spoiled money loving power craving elite brats, trained in western Europe and always enjoying near royal treatment. They are the true unreliable class in North Korea, but as children of the ruling elite, they remain protected. They will sell out the country when they take power.

In transferring power to the third generation, Kim wants plenty of time to train up his successor in the finer points of demagoguery, but he needs time. He also needs a stable atmosphere. Kim Jong Il came into power after the bulk of the resolution of the first nuclear crisis, and used that three-plus years to solidify his control over the country. With a batch of selfish third generation leaders and a remnant of second generation leaders all jockeying for power and position, Kim will have a very difficult time ensuring his successor can actually take on the mantle of the Kim dynasty with any hope of success.

And thus we get back to the current issue – delay the SPA, don’t have a parliamentary meeting until the clear path for a successor is solidified. The path can’t be solidified until Kim Jong Il is certain in his regime’s security, either through a pact with the United States or a clear demonstration of North Korea’s military might. Which it will be is up to Washington, but Pyongyang has made it clear that time is running out, it can’t delay forever. And it has put this autumn as the final cutoff point.

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