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Excellent study of the DPRK
on 5 March 2014
This extremely useful book provides us with evidence that undermines the stereotypes that pass for knowledge of the DPRK. Cumings is a professor of history at the University of Chicago, and is the foremost historian of the USA’s long war against Korea.
He cites a CIA study that “acknowledged various achievements of this regime: compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular, ‘radical change’ in the position of women; genuinely free housing, free health care and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” The government also gave land to the peasants, and provided free education.
Cumings shows that the war in Korea was part of a long civil war and that the invasion in June 1950 did not start the conflict, so it did not define the conflict. The UN fell for the US and British governments’ lie that it was an invasion. But how could Koreans ‘invade’ their own country?
It was also a war against the foreign occupier. In December 1945, the commander of the US occupation forces, General Hodge, ‘declared war’ on the communist party in the South.
As Richard Stokes, Britain’s Minister of Works, wrote in 1950, “In the American Civil War the Americans would never have tolerated for a single moment the setting up of an imaginary line between the forces of North and South, and there can be no doubt as to what would have been their reaction if the British had intervened in force on behalf of the South. This parallel is a close one because in America the conflict was not merely between two groups of Americans, but was between two conflicting economic systems as is the case in Korea.”
The USA dropped more than a million gallons of napalm, threatened to use chemical weapons, and had contingency plans to drop nuclear weapons. General Curtis LeMay, who ran the bombing war, said, “over a period of three years or so … we burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea, too.” UN/US forces killed three million North Koreans and nearly one million Chinese.
The 1953 armistice agreement banned the introduction of qualitatively new weapons, but the USA broke the agreement by basing nuclear weapons in the South.
The DPRK suffered unprecedented floods in 1995 and 1996, and a drought in 1997. In 1995, 330,000 hectares of agricultural land were wrecked and 1.9 million tons of grain were lost. The damage cost $15 billion.
Cumings cites various ‘experts’ who forecast the collapse of the regime, like Nicholas Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute, who wrote of ‘The coming collapse of North Korea’ in the Wall Street Journal as early as 25 June 1990, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who said in June 2003, “North Korea is teetering on the brink of collapse.”
Cumings then cites Eason Jordan, the head of CNN International, “I’m here to tell you with absolute certainty those guys will tough it out for centuries just the way they are. Neither the United States nor any other country is going to be able to force a collapse of that government.” Cumings comments, “That’s exactly what I think.”