The Soviet Union collapsed because it allowed Madonna, Pepsi and other manifestations of “imperialist bourgeois ideology and culture” to manipulate its people and politicians. North Korea will not fall for the same trick, says the British head of the world’s largest support group for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Western and South Korean academics and media have recently ramped up speculation that North Korea is about to collapse in a similar way to how the Soviet Union did two and a half decade ago.
French scholar Pierre Rigoulot, the head of the Institut d’Histoire Sociale, said last month that the North’s troubled human rights situation and diplomatic skirmishes will eventually lead to a breakdown of the regime, even if it has nuclear weapons.
“Once ordinary North Koreans better understand the outside world, they will be able to make comparisons between their country and others,” he told Yonhap News Agency in Paris. “The North will collapse from within just as the Soviet Union did.”
Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake followed up by saying that the US should not focus on offering North Korea further aid and food assistance, and instead quietly push China and South Korea to begin planning with the US for the day the North Korean regime falls.
“Let’s be honest. The world would be a better place if a revolutionary tribunal in the near future sent North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and his henchmen to the gallows,” he wrote.
Not all agree.
DR Dermot Hudson, Chairman of the UK Korean Friendship Association, says that speculation with regard to the collapse of the DPRK is merely wishful thinking by American imperialists and South Korean puppets.
[American] ideology and culture are a dangerous poison that numbs the people’s minds and undermines the foundations of socialism
“Some imperialist pundits have revived the discredited and threadbare idea of the DPRK’s so-called collapse,” he said in an emailed statement. “These theories are of course far removed from reality”.
The organization claims to have some 15,000 members worldwide and official delegates in 38 countries, with new supporters joining every day.
It was founded as a reaction to reports of war crimes committed by U.S. armed forces in Korea and Vietnam, and says the Americans are to blame for the current turmoil in the region.
They say the DPRK is a genuine workers’ state in which all the people are completely liberated from exploitation and oppression.
I have previously interviewed several members of the organization, with some of them calling Western media “scum” and pointing the finger at “American war propaganda.” The negative image of North Korea portrayed in Western media is based on lies, exaggerations and misunderstandings, they argue.
So why would the DPRK not follow the example of the USSR?
First, the Soviet Union did not fall because of its socialistic system, Hudson argues, but rather because it was “betrayed” by former leader Mikhail Gorbachev who was working on behalf of the US. The DPRK will not fall for the same fate, he said, as it has “smashed the internal traitors who wanted to sell the interests of the country to the imperialists.”
Furthermore, juche socialism — a form of political religion based on Kim Il-sung’s ideologies — is completely different to the former Soviet socialism, he said. The Soviet Union abandoned its revolutionary principles and basically gave up the class struggle against the enemies of socialism. Instead, he said, it joined hands with the West, tricked by pleas for peaceful coexistence.
This led to the fact that PepsiCo was allowed to have factories in the USSR, and that people were listening to “the most rubbishy aspects of bourgeois imperialist pop culture such as Madonna.” The DPRK, on the other hand, maintained its revolutionary principles.
“[American] ideology and culture are dangerous poisons that numb the people’s minds and undermine the foundations of socialism,” he said.
“The DPRK however puts up the mosquito net and combats the infiltration of imperialist bourgeois ideology and culture.”
This mosquito net seems to have large holes, however.
Influence both from the West and Asian neighboring countries is increasing in North Korea, according to several experts I’ve spoken with.
Market reforms, although small, are under way, allowing, for example, farmers and factory managers to sell larger parts of their output on the open market. South Korean and Western culture is also being smuggled over the border in massive quantities. A popular South Korean soap opera can be available in the North just a week after being broadcast in South.
A teenage girl I spoke with in Seoul said ‘culture smuggling’ to the North could bring people on the Korean Peninsula closer to each other.
“If they listen to ‘Gangnam Style’, they will understand us much better,” she said. “That would be very positive”.
I’m not sure Dermot Hudson and his fellow pro-Northers would agree.