Since the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, Kim the third has struggled to establish what kind of leader he is. If he’s smart, or even just sagely selfish, he’ll open the country and become the richest man on the planet.
The black market is growing there and it threatens to overtake the legitimate, state-controlled markets. The difference is that there are no taxes collected from the ever-growing black market, regardless of how many bribes are collected daily to look the other way.
But there is a way to take the existing resources and channel them into something truly magnificent, profitable and best overall for Korea.
Million Soldier Show of Force
By some accounts, the million-plus standing army in North Korea spends three to six hours per day in pointless military exercises. I say pointless because it doesn’t matter how synchronized your march steps may be, no matter how cool it looks. It’s ultimately pointless.
If they took those already-funded man hours and dedicated them to railroad maintenance and construction, infrastructure, or other non-military endeavors, they would have 3-6 million man hours per day to dedicate to the betterment of North Korean roads, homes, factories and other public works.
That’s still while maintaining the army at full strength, just by focusing less on parade prep than actually fixing their country. They’d still have their standing army at full strength, but also a country better prepared for survival in the real world than pride in parades demonstrated for those who already love and believe in you.
Soldiers won’t be thrilled about digging irrigation ditches to make farms productive, but when they’re eating better next year, they’ll know they’ve done right by their nation and themselves. And who cares if they don’t, they do what they’re told, so let’s just tell them to help their country and her people.
Tanks to Tractors
North Korea has 4,060 tanks and manufactures about 200 new military tanks annually [LINK]. These tanks serve no purpose. China will not invade from the north, and South Korea will not invade from the South. Any new battle would be by air and sea.
Seriously guys, South Korea has zero interest in pushing northward. They don’t want you guys to reunite, they want you to civilize and become genuinely viable.
Military vehicles is where the latest technology lies, and if they simply re-purposed it to agricultural uses they could escape the decades-long cycle of famine that has plagued all but the richest in the capital city… and even then, only the super-elite are actually able to get fat.
Show me a fat north Korean and I’ll show you how he’s directly related to the ruling family. You will find more obese people in any given North American Walmart than in the entirety of North Korea. That’s a sad judgment on America, but a worse judgment on North Korea.
Brilliant Scientific Minds on Critical Domestic Issues
DPRK can build a nuclear bomb, but they can’t keep the power running. They can successfully launch a three-stage rocket into orbit, but they can’t run a train faster than 20 miles per hour.
The priorities are all wrong.
The scientist and engineers of DPRK are among the world’s brightest even while their cousins and siblings starve back home. If these brilliant minds were put to work on building up a domestic Korea instead of constructing doomsday devices for a war that will never come, the country could have food, technology, prosperity and hope.
As just an example of poor planning, it’s reported in Panorama North Korea Undercover BBC Documentary 2013 that those who die in the gulags are piled up until April when their largely decomposed bodies are removed from warehouse to be put underground. Since you’ve been doing this for 60 years, maybe you could think ahead and dig a trench for mass burial before the winter snows come, so in April all you’d have to do is cover them. I’m just saying, this is pretty basic stuff, but they haven’t mastered it.
Tourism, tourism, tourism
DPRK wants it. They need it. But they just won’t do it.
The country is already setup for it. There are plenty of hotels and English speaking tour guides, but not nearly enough tourists. Part of the problem is the absurd, ridiculous limits set on tourists, and the rest of the problem boils down to failing to see how much money there is to be made.
DPRK’s GDP is under $13 billion, so tourism alone could fuel the entire country, if only it was allowed.
First things first. When you bring in tourists, don’t give them crappy Motel-6 type accommodations. You’ve got the whole building, give them fancy suites they’ll brag about to their friends. The space is there, just slap some paint on it and call it good enough. They won’t even notice they’re trapped in the hotel if the hotel is so awesome they don’t want to leave.
Secondly, don’t isolate your tourists. Give them locals to interact with. Give them company and companionship. Give them a reason to feel they truly understand the people.
In Conclusion – tl;dr
You can fix this in a generation. Show good faith and the embargoes will be lifted, the international aid will flow, and you can right your ship immediately.
Or don’t… and just wait. Reform is coming whether you decide to be part of it or not. It’s totally up to you, but Korea will re-unify, so you can choose to be the savior of the peninsula, or a footnote in history.