Tuesday, May 26, 2009

North Korean Nuclear Test

North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb over the weekend, and today the North Koreans fired two short-range missiles off of their east coast. The initial reports are that even Russia and China are joining in international condemnation, and a Post article tonight says that South Korea will join a US-led effort to intercept suspicious ships that may be trying to export nuclear weapons.
232. What is it about North Korea that is making its government increasingly belligerent (externally) and repressive (internally) as compared to other Asian nations/peoples? This question came to mind over the weekend after I read Roger Cohen's piece, in the NYT (here), in which he argued that both China and Vietnam are evolving steadily towards more and more democracy ("Twenty years after Tiananmen Square, revolt is dormant and students docile from Beijing to Hanoi. They’ve bought into development over democracy for the foreseeable future. They may want more freedom, but not to the point that they will confront the system, as the Tiananmen generation did.").

Cohen's thesis is that the internet is a key component to the change that is occurring in China and Vietnam:
Technology has taken the “total” out of totalitarian. The Stalinist or Maoist dark night of the soul has been consigned to history by wired societies. Neither China nor Vietnam is free. At the same time, neither is so un-free as to make their citizens ache for liberty.
233. OK, but if Cohen is right, then why isn't technology having a similar effect in North Korea?

It's too easy to say that the government in North Korea is blocking access to the internet -- if that is actually so, (1) how are they doing this (what technology do they have that other regimes do not have), (2) why are the young people in North Korea putting up with it, (3) and why aren't the Chinese and Vietnamese governments responding similarly?

I also don't buy that North Korea's different simply because Kim Jong Il is crazy -- at this point, he's quite sick and there must be an enormous apparatus of others who are directing and enforcing North Korean policy decisions.

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