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Korea: Korea May 2024 Update


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May 6, 2024: North Korea is trying to reduce corruption in the military logistics system. The government ordered the replacement of many older logistics officers with younger, hopefully more idealistic, and honest officers. Government officials gave speeches about the need for reliable, as in not corrupt or otherwise deficient officers.

North Korea also has a problem with workers sent to work in Russia. This paid well and, even though the North Korean government took a large percentage of worker pay, what was sent back to families in North Korea made life much better for those families. When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, one side effect was massive economic sanctions on Russia. That meant less or no more work for North Koreans working in eastern Russia near the border with North Korea. These North Koreans could not go home and were considered a problem by residents and the government of the Russian Pacific coast city of Vladivostok.


The Americans and South Koreans view North Korea as currently less stable and more prone to reckless actions against the south. These new North Korean attitudes began to appear after November 2023 when South Korea canceled a 2018 agreement with North Korea that reduced the surveillance and spying, they carried out against each other. South Korea took a closer look at North Korean military activities and concluded that North Korea might be tempted to emulate the recent Hamas attack on Israel, and back it with the threat of using nuclear weapons. This is a dangerous form of diplomacy, and it is unclear if North Korea was contemplating such a thing. Now North Korea is temporarily prospering by selling weapons and munitions to Russia in return for cash and much-needed food. This is good news for the North Korean government, which until last year was facing more popular unrest due to poor economic conditions and not enough food.


South Korea has been expanding its arms production since the 1990s and now, because of demand from NATO nations that sent a lot of weapons to Ukraine, South Korea is poised to enter the Top Five arms exporters.

Big Brother China is openly losing patience with its unruly neighbor. China is, literally, North Korea’s economic lifeline. China is the primary or only source for essentials like petroleum, food, and all sorts of smuggled goods, past a long list of international sanctions. China will tolerate a lot of bad behavior in return for obedience and maintaining order along the Chinese border. North Korea failed in both categories.

Everyone looks to China because North Korea has traditionally been a Chinese responsibility and, most of the time, a difficult one. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has obediently gone to China several times since 2018 to receive advice. Kim also met with the leaders of South Korea and the United States. So far lots of the right words but little action. China and everyone else fears that North Korea is going to try and scam its way out of another tight situation and risk the very real wrath of China while doing it. Inside North Korea the official word is that the nuclear weapons are essential and not negotiable. Unofficially, more North Koreans want a change of government or a way to get out. Meanwhile South Korea continues to visibly prosper, with GDP per capita that is more than 20 times larger than North Korea. Being caught viewing videos of life in South Korea or South Korean video entertainment, is now a capital (death penalty) offense in North Korea.

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