Monday, September 26, 2011

They Better Pray it Isn't the "People's" Army

North Korea's ruling elite is starting to understand that discipline is breaking down everywhere. And the army is not immune:

Even the soldiers cannot be trusted anymore. And that's because the troops are going hungry. Rations (normally 800 grams/28 ounces a day) have been cut by a third for most troops, and are lower quality (maize instead of rice). It's become increasingly common for soldiers to sneak out of their bases and steal food and goods (which are promptly sold on the black market for food). Punishment (a potentially fatal spell in a work camp) is not stopping this criminal activity. In fact, it is becoming more common. Naturally, morale among the hungry troops is plunging. Most elite units have not suffered cuts in quantity, but have seen reductions in the quality of food.

A year ago, I discounted the North Korean plan to devote the state's resources to shoring up the military as a pillar of the regime:

North Korea is so broke that they had downgraded the conventional army in favor of relying on secret police to control the people and army; and relying on nuclear weapons to keep foreign invaders away. But last year, it seemed like Kim Jong Un had gotten the support of the spooks. What happened to that template for regime survival? Do the rulers think that sectet police are no longer enough to control the people and army? Are the rulers so worried about the military that they need to buy them off again?

Perhaps The Un bought the military's support by promising more money for the military. Is that the new plan? Going back to the old plan? The plan that required Soviet cash in large amounts?

Which will be interesting, since North Korea seems way too broke to buy the support of the army. Where will they get the money?

Unless China opens the spigot to massive amounts of aid, a "Songun" policy can't work. What is just as interesting is that the former policy of relying on the secret police to control the army apparently isn't working out like it was supposed to. And there are no nuclear weapons yet for the other part of that policy which was supposed to make the lack of an effective army moot by deterring foreign attack.

North Korea would almost certainly lose a war with South Korea and America (and Japan?). But "almost certainly" might seem like a bright ray of hope if the rulers see their regime definitely crumbling away around them.

So let's keep an eye on them. Winning will be bloody and expensive. And then we get the prize of owning that black hole of despair.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.