PEACE PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF KOREA
by Frank Forman, BA (math) 1966, ABD and MA (economics) 1968, and Ph.D. George Mason 1985.
July 31, 2017
Have Dennis Rodman, the basketball diplomat, meet again with Kim-Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK). During his last visit Rodman gave Kim a copy of Donald Trump’s _The Art of the Deal_, which several commenters said was a “stroke of genius.” This time Rodman should give him a copy of Slavenka Drakulic, _Café Europa: Life After Communism_. This book was written by a Croatian journalist and depicts the attitudes of those in ex-communist countries as receding slowly but inevitably.
An autocrat can govern either by fear or by being loved. Fear is the usual course, and the autocrat becomes fearful himself. This is the route Kim has taken. Fear does not mean harsh law, which people can get used to; it means arbitrary law. North Korea has been vague about what law Otto Warmbier did that was wrong or why he was treated so disproportionately.
But if Kim tries to change his way of governing and institutes a free and open society, he will be constantly fearful that one or another faction may kill him, a problem all autocrats have. Shortly after his ascension to Supreme Leader of DPRK on December 29, 2011, the New York Times offered an assessment of the factions in DPRK. The usual government, military, and economic factions were there. But in this case, the drug trade is also highly important as it brings in sound currency. This angle is rarely mentioned, even in the Times. One article, which I can’t put my hands on, says that Kim Jong-un’s half brother, Kim Jong-nam, managed the drug trade and thus constituted a threat to Kim Jong-un when he ascended to Supreme Leader after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il (himself the son of Kim Il-sung, the first leader of the DPRK).
See, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “A North Korean Corleone,” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/opinion/sunday/a-north-korean-c orleone.html .
The recent murder of the half-brother has been widely attributed outside of DPRK as having been orchestrated by Kim Jong-un. The New York Times articles have said little about the drug trade since the first ones.
Clearly, Kim is taking the fear direction, not the love direction. Kim also supposedly ordered the execution of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, a powerful rival in the military sector, on December 12, 2013.
If Kim could make a transition from communism to capitalism (never, never call it that), he would become one of the most loved politicians in the world. But he has to survive and he needs to understand the stresses and joys that will befall his countrymen. Pitch all those economics and political science tomes on the transition from communism to capitalism. Instead, read just one book on the psychology of transitions, namely Slavenka Drakulic (1949- ): Café Europa: Life After Communism (New York: Norton, 213 pp., HN380.7.A8 D73 1997). This is a warm and wonderful book. Give it to Rodman and get him to give his copy to Kim, so that Kim will get a good idea of what North Korea will go through. Kim might well promise that no one will be harmed by the transition. In the case of the transition in China, workers were promised that they could still have guaranteed lifelong jobs in the collectivized sector but now have the opportunity to work in the newly-free-market sector at free-market wages. This way, there will be no losers.
If Kim is responsive, then have President Trump invite him to the White House, joined with Drakulic, Rodman, and Trumps’s chief ideological advisor, Steve Bannon.
Please consider having B.G. Muhn, a professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Georgetown University, come to the White House, too. He is infallibly polite and offered no criticism of the DPRK. He published, _Contemporary North Korean Art: The evolution of socialist realism_ (Washington: The Katzen Arts Center, American University, 52 pp., ND1070.C66 2016). Muhn was was the curator of the remarkable exhibit, held June 28-August 14, 2016, of the same title. This way, Kim would not feel isolated. Muhn’s presence would raise the comfort level of everyone and Kim would not feel isolated.
The deal Trump will make with Kim would be that the United States would support the transition to capitalism by allowing mutual investments to be made by both countries in the other. Both countries would forbear seizing property. (Islam never became capitalist because, whenever a business exceeded a certain size, the state would seize it.) Tariffs would be zero, excepting those either country makes generally, now or in the future.
Crucially, no mention of nuclear developments should be made. As mutual investments get made, the incentives to invest in bombs would fade away. No one today thinks that war between France and Germany is even remotely possible. Businessmen want peace!
Let the Deal-Maker-in-Chief, Donald Trump, once again, make a deal. No one else can, with regards the DPRK. Radical problems require radical thinking and radical solutions.
You may also wish to read:
Isaac Stone Fish, “The Black Hole of North Korea”, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/opinion/09iht-edfish09.html
Choe Sang-Hun, “In North Korea Deal, Son Inherits Father’s Framework”, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/world/asia/in-north-korea-deal- son-inherits-fathers-framework.html
and the associated graphic, “The Wide World of North Korean Contraband,” http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2012/03/03/sunday-review/0304-w eb-korea.html
In particular, Bannon should read Gordon Tullock’s _Autocracy_ (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 231 pp., JC495.T85 1987), reprinted in The Social Dilemma: Of Autocracy, Revolution, Coup d’Etat, and War (Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, Vol. 8. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 402 pp., HB195.T84 2005). Tullock was one of my professors in graduate economics at the University of Virginia.