In North Korea, The Dynasty Holds Firm
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  • Toni

    Off topic: Prof. Mead, I believe that in Via Meadia’s early days, you published a sort of mission statement. Might it not be a good idea to do so again? You have many newcomers, and frankly I don’t remember well enough to know whether my frequent, and frequently garrulous, posts are on point.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    The contrast between North and South Korea, is as stark as any where on Earth. The North is stagnate with population of 24.5 million that barely grows, a GDP of $40 Billion and per capita income of $1,600, while the South has double the population at 48.8 million which is growing, and a GDP of $1.459 Trillion 36 times the Norths, and a per capita of $30,000 18 times the impoverished North. These numbers argue against you, the North’s government would have been secure in the distant past, but in the present environment with their fellow Koreans to the South thriving, and even the Chinese doing much better than them, the North Koreans must be chaffing under the incompetence of their leadership. I believe that the only thing keeping the Norths Government in power, is blackout of information getting to the people, because if the could see the contrast between how they live and how the South lives, they would revolt.

  • Gary L

    Very interesting – so the three previous Korean dynasties ruled for 975, 474 and 518 years, respectively, a mean of 665 years. This means that we can confidently predict the Kim dynasty will utterly collapse into total oblivion early in the 27th Century – unless they can somehow unlock the survival secrets of the Silla dynasty, and prolong their rule into the early 30th Century. The clock is ticking!

  • Jacksonian Libertarian: if mass starvation does not shake the regime, comparison with states the local populace has no access to knowledge about is hardly likely to do so.

    Prof: nice summary of the relevant patterns in Korean history. I recently posted on the atavism of totalitarianism, so I found your informative post analytically reassuring.

  • Gary L

    Jacksonian Libertarian is like:

    “I believe that the only thing keeping the Norths Government in power, is blackout of information getting to the people, because if they could see the contrast between how they live and how the South lives, they would revolt.”

    According to the article I’m linking to, there is a fair amount of South Korean culture that is finding its way north, particularly the sublime genre of opera.

    Soap opera, that is.,8599,1933096,00.html

  • Anthony

    AI: Policy, Politics, and Culture – Focus and Themes subsume proportion and contemporary place ancillary given specific historical and contextual American condition (contemporary predilections/changes notwithstanding – reflection of unsolved American identity problem and psychological malaise).

  • Anthony

    Post @6 incorrectly placed in wrong Quick Take.

  • Derek Footer

    And yet, South Korea is Korea too, and their experience is quite different than that of North Korea. Dynasties last because they satisfy the basic needs of the population and no alternative is seen. I suspect this is true of past Korean dynasties, and is certainly not true of the current one. While I think that the points the professor makes help explain why the Kims have lasted so long, it is not nearly as predictive regarding their longevity as is implied.

  • ed

    My ancestors were farmers for 5000 years. I’m an accountant. Funny how modern life does that to traditions.

    South Korea (also part of the ancient Korean dysnasties) has dropped the concept of hereditary leadership in the post war period. Funny how people accept democracy when given half a chance.

  • Punditarian

    Delighted, Professor Mead, that you succinctly and correctly identify the old Korean roots of the DPRK’s monarchy. My only quibble would be to say that the ancien regime (like the present regime) was not Confucian, but rather neo-Confucius. The Master Kung emphasized the obligations of the father to the son, of the husband to the wife, of the older brother to the younger brother, and of the ruler to the people. In contrast, although emphasizing the importance of these same relationships, the neo-Confucians emphasized the obligations of the son to the father, of the younger brother to the older brother, of the wife to the husband, and of the people to the ruler.

    Identity cards, punishing 3 generations for crimes of disloyalty, xenophobia, and near-starvation poverty were prominent features of late Yi Dynasty Korea — and very obvious in the DPRK today.

    The transformation of the RoK into a modern, largely free-market, largely democratic republic, however, indicates that this cultural heritage can be transcended. Let’s hope sooner rather than later.

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