Thursday, December 28, 2006

North Korean elites now a "skeptical class"

In the past decade many North Korean families have had their state-enforced high ideals shattered, according to refugees and nongovernmental and academic sources working with them. A recent high-level defector from Pyongyang confirms that many elites in the North are now a "skeptical class," according to sources in South Korea's national unification ministry.

North Korea today faces a paradox: While its material standard of living has been improving fro some, moving from awful to less awful - its morale and its collective beliefs continue to fray. The quality of patriotism, military discipline, and ideological purity - elements that have uniquely bound the North - are shaky, say many sources.

Local authority figures of respect have spent a decade foraging for cash and food, like everyone else.

A "feeling of positive emotion" is missing in the North, reports a Seoul-based researcher on the Chinese-North Korean border. "People have stopped seeing each other as people; everything is money.... It used to be that everyone looked up to public officials ... to the Army. Now they are on the take," says a Korean reporter for NKnet, a newsletter in Seoul headed by Han Ki-hong, a leftist who is critical of the North's human rights violations.

[Christian Science Monitor]

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