News

Voice of America 04/14/97

NORTH KOREA POLITICS

BYLINE=SHIN NA
DATELINE=SEOUL
CONTENT=
VOICED AT:  

INTRO:  NORTH KOREA HAS BEEN SUFFERING FROM
A FOOD SHORTAGE FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, 
AND RECENT VISITORS TO THE COMMUNIST COUNTRY
SAY THE SITUATION HAS REACHED A CRISIS STAGE.  
SHIN NA REPORTS FROM SEOUL ON THE POSSIBLE 
IMPACT OF THE FOOD CRISIS ON THE STABILITY OF 
THE NORTH KOREAN GOVERNMENT.  

TEXT:  NORTH KOREA'S FOOD SHORTAGE IS SAID 
TO HAVE REACHED A CRISIS. A NUMBER OF RECENT
VISITORS TO THE ISOLATIONIST COUNTRY, INCLUDING 
U-N AID OFFICIALS AND U-S LAWMAKERS, HAVE 
SOUNDED ALARMS ABOUT THE SERIOUSNESS OF 
THE FOOD SHORTAGE,.  THERE ARE  PREDICTIONS 
OF MASS STARVATION IF FOOD AID IS NOT PROVIDED 
IMMEDIATELY.  

IN A RARE ADMISSION BY THE ISOLATIONIST 
GOVERNMENT, NORTH KOREAN HEALTH OFFICIALS 
TOLD UNICEF THAT 134 CHILDREN DIED LAST YEAR
OF MALNUTRITION AND MORE THAN 15 PERCENT OF
NORTH KOREAN CHILDREN DISPLAYED SYMPTOMS
OF MALNUTRITION.  SUCH REPORTS HAVE PROMPTED 
THE UNITED NATIONS TO APPEAL FOR 126 MILLION 
DOLLARS IN EMERGENCY FOOD AID TO THE NORTH.   

THE FOOD SHORTAGE HAS REPLACED IDEOLOGICAL 
DIFFERENCES AS THE MAIN MOTIVATION BEHIND 
DEFECTIONS FROM NORTH KOREA.  HWANG JANG-YOP, 
THE HIGHEST LEVEL NORTH KOREAN OFFICIAL TO 
SEEK DEFECTION SAID IN A WRITTEN STATEMENT 
HE DOUBTED THE "SANITY" OF THE PYONGYANG 
LEADERSHIP, WHICH IS ALLOWING ITS PEOPLE TO
STARVE. MR. HWANG IS THE AUTHOR OF THE "JUCHE" 
OR "SELF-RELIANCE" IDEOLOGY, UPON WHICH THE 
COUNTRY'S POLITICAL SYSTEM IS BASED, SO HIS 
DEFECTION BEARS SIGNIFICANT WEIGHT AS A 
CHALLENGE TO THE STABILITY OF THE NORTH'S 
REGIME. 

DURING A VISIT TO SOUTH KOREA LAST WEEK, 
U-S DEFENSE SECRETARY WILLIAM COHEN SAID THE
COLLAPSE OF THE NORTH KOREAN GOVERNMENT IS
"INEVITABLE".    SOUTH KOREAN OFFICIALS ALSO
HAVE COMMENTED ON THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE
FOOD CRISIS, BUT THEY ARE RELUCTANT TO CONCLUDE
THE NORTH'S FOOD PROBLEMS MEAN THE IMMEDIATE
COLLAPSE OF THE GOVERNMENT THERE.  KIM 
YOUNG-MIN, A SPOKESMAN FOR SOUTH KOREA'S 
MINISTRY OF UNIFICATION BELIEVES THE IMPACT 
OF THE FOOD SHORTAGE ON THE PYONGYANG 
LEADERSHIP'S HOLD ON POWER HAS BEEN OVERESTIMATED.  

                        /// KIM YOUNG-MIN ACT /// 

IT IS APPARENT THAT NORTH KOREA IS SUFFERING 
FROM A FOOD SHORTAGE AND THE FOOD SHORTAGE 
IS AFFECTING THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE.  HOWEVER,  
THE IMPACT OF THE SHORTAGE ON THE REGIME'S 
STABILITY OR MILITARY STABILITY IS A DIFFERENT 
STORY, BECAUSE IT SEEMS THAT THE REGIME STILL
HAS FIRM CONTROL OVER THE SOCIETY AND THE 
MILITARY IS STILL UNDER THE REGIME'S POWER, LED 
BY KIM JONG-IL.  SO WE DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT 
IS GOING ON THERE, BUT THE FOOD SHORTAGE HAS
LESS IMPACT ON THE REGIME'S STABILITY AND 
MILITARY STABILITY THAN IT HAS ON ORDINARY PEOPLE.               

        /// END KIM YOUNG-MIN ACT ///  

SOME NORTH KOREA WATCHERS, INCLUDING KIM 
YOUNG-YOON OF THE KOREA INSTITUTE FOR NATIONAL 
UNIFICATION, SAY EVEN IF KIM JONG-IL LOSES POWER, 
DUE TO FAILURE TO SOLVE THE FOOD CRISIS, THERE IS NO 
GUARANTEE THAT WILL MEAN THE COLLAPSE OF THE 
NORTH'S SOCIALIST SYSTEM.    

                     /// KIM YOUNG-YOON ACT ///  

THE CONTINUATION OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS 
MAY ACCELERATE DETERIORATION AND ULTIMATELY 
LEAD TO COLLAPSE OF THE NORTH KOREAN REGIME.  
BUT EVEN IF KIM JONG-IL LOSES HIS POLITICAL POWER, 
THE REGIME COULD BE REPLACED BY ANOTHER POWER 
GROUP, FOR EXAMPLE, MILITARY POWER.  IN THIS CASE, 
THE NORTH KOREAN REGIME WILL BE SUSTAINED 
AND CONTINUED. BUT WE CANNOT EXPECT, IN THE 
NEAR FUTURE, THE COLLAPSE OF SYSTEM.  SYSTEM 
COLLAPSE MEANS THE REFORM AND TRANSFORMATION
OF NORTH KOREA'S SOCIALISTIC SYSTEM INTO 
CAPITALISTIC AND LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM. 
IT WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT FOR SUCH CHANGE 
TO HAPPEN  IN NORTH KOREA IN THE NEAR FUTURE.                  

          /// END KIM YOUNG-YOON ACT ///  

THE NORTH KOREAN MILITARY IS SEEN AS VITAL 
TO THE PYONGYANG GOVERNMENT'S POWER.  THE 
RECENT DEATHS OF TOP MILITARY LEADERS AND 
THE REPORTED ARREST OF A VICE MARSHALL FOR 
AN ATTEMPTED COUP HAVE LED TO SPECULATIONS
THAT DE FACTO LEADER KIM JONG-IL IS CONSOLIDATING 
HIS CONTROL OVER THE MILITARY, BY APPOINTING A 
YOUNGER GENERATION OF OFFICERS LOYAL TO HIM.  
THE NORTH'S OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY ANNOUNCED 
MONDAY KIM JONG-IL HAS ORDERED PROMOTIONS 
OF 123 MILITARY OFFICERS.   

RECENT DIPLOMATIC OVERTURES BY PYONGYANG, 
SUGGEST THE SEVERITY OF THE NORTH'S ECONOMIC 
CRISIS.  PYONGYANG HAS REQUESTED A MEETING 
BETWEEN ITS DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER AND HIS 
U-S AND SOUTH KOREAN COUNTERPARTS IN NEW 
YORK ON APRIL 16TH.  NORTH KOREA IS EXPECTED 
TO GIVE AN ANSWER TO THE JOINT U-S/SOUTH KOREAN 
PROPOSAL FOR PEACE TALKS, AIMED AT REPLACING 
THE 1953 KOREAN ARMISTICE WITH A PERMANENT 
PEACE TREATY.  IN THE PAST,  PYONGYANG HAS 
CITED FOOD AID AS A CONDITION FOR ATTENDING 
PEACE TALKS AND ON SATURDAY, NORTH KOREA 
CRITICIZED THE UNITED STATES AND SOUTH KOREA 
FOR USING FOOD AID AS POLITICAL LEVERAGE 
TO PRESSURE PYONGYANG INTO AGREEING TO 
PEACE NEGOTIATIONS. (SIGNED)

NEB/SN/FC

14-Apr-97 7:01 AM EDT (1101 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America