Friday, July 08, 2005

Change in North Korea

The following is a note I sent to a friend about North Korea. Along with Northern Uganda and Burma, there are all places where it is clear things could be so much better if just a few people weren't around to keep things all maniacal. I'm not particuarly proud of the below analysis but the letter states something that even in the face of Iraq needs to be said. Maybe I should have chosen Tanzinia invading Uganda or Dayton or something less loaded but the Civil War is just so epic:

Feb 3 2005
If I knew of a way to change the North Korean Regime without massive death and suffering, I would advocate for it. Unfortunately I don't. Do you have any ideas?

I know some people would say: "It's not your place to change Korea; change needs to come from within."

And to that I would say: "Yes that would be the ideal strategy and works in many situations." But I would also say: "I think such opinions have an overly pessimistic view of the motivations of outsiders, and their ability in extreme cases to truly act altruistically and to change things for the better (on average) in a society that is not their own."

As a historical example of an extreme case, offered as a proof of principle rather than for the clarity of the analogy, I would give the North and the South of the USA. (which probably has a lot to do with why I feel this way). And the outsider with extreme ability would be from this very state good ol' Abe.

Of course questions could be raised about what qualifies as 'extreme' and what degree of unfamiliarity the outsider can really have and still be effective; I mean Lincoln was hardly an outsider, with a southerner wife, and he was sporadically the elected president of a country that had been unified for 87+ years.

Okay, I guess this historical analogy would really be asserting that if there is really ever going to be positive change in North Korea, it wouldn't have to come from within, but at least it would have to come from South Korea.

Yet I still think this is overly pessimistic, because (though the sample size is really too small to reach such broad conclusions) something I learned while living in Namibia is that while societies are very different (though rapidly becoming more similar for better(?)
or worse(?)) I found people to be essentially the same.

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