A recent blog popular with those who follow North Korean events regularly discussed resistance regarding North Korea.
Although the article did not predict revolution, it may lead to thinking that an armed rebellion is on the horizon. The piece mentioned that there is a level of resistance in the North, with the main focus of the blog on the activities of a group known as the Cheollima Civil Defense, which is either a group of North Korean defectors or a South Korean entity, depending on who you ask. Regardless of which group forms its membership, the organization and its actions are external to the DPRK.
An earlier essay of mine pointed out that there are indeed protests in the North in certain circumstances and under specific conditions. However, there are several reasons to warn against this spreading to an open rebellion coming anytime soon.
To begin with, a successful revolution requires a critical mass, a sufficient number of disaffected people willing to rise up and do something. While one might argue that a large number of North Koreans are – or at least ought to be – dissatisfied, it is another thing to say that they are willing to stand up in serious opposition to the government.
Furthermore, the available data do not indicate with any accuracy the number of North Korean who are dissatisfied with the regime itself. What we do know comes from defectors, a self-selected subset of the North Korean population which may or may not be representative of the whole.
A successful revolution requires a critical mass
There are articles in which “sources” in the North are quoted reporting some level of angst, but yet again it is not possible to tell whether such sources are truly characteristic of the general population.
Another reason is that, even if large numbers of average citizens are indeed so fed up that they might be willing to do something, they dare not share their feelings with those outside of their immediate families and extremely close friends.
People do not risk expressing their discontent openly, due to heavy surveillance by the authorities through citizen monitoring groups such as the inminban, a North Korean version of a neighborhood political watch group, that reports on all such matters to the authorities.
One recent example is a report suggesting complainers were arrested and imprisoned after being overheard griping about money being spent on missiles instead of improving their lives. Communication between and among willing groups of would-be rebels is far too hazardous.
While there have been comparisons with uprisings in other countries, those fail to consider some important factors. As but one example, the Arab Spring was successful in a number of Middle Eastern countries due to the widespread use of social media, something that is not possible in North Korea.
Without being able to communicate in order to establish a group that shares a common end or purpose, let alone develop any meaningful plan of action, there can be no organization for effective revolution.
Since the authorities have no compunction about public executions, it is unlikely that they would hesitate to forcibly put down any attempted uprising
TOOLS OF RESISTANCE
Worse, such would-be rebels are without any means of resistance beyond verbal haranguing – in North Korea, private weapons are not allowed. Rudimentary home and garden tools as instruments of war are ineffective against pistols, rifles, and automatic weapons.
Since the authorities have no compunction about public executions, it is unlikely that they would hesitate to forcibly put down any attempted uprising. In one such instance two years ago, what was described as a “brawl” or “riot” took place when merchants rebelled against the confiscation of their wares because they had refused to pay bribes to local authorities. The melee was quashed with everyone being arrested and the market was closed.
Certainly, there have been other acts of resistance – too numerous for discussing here – but perhaps the biggest obstacle facing a true revolt is that it would have to overcome a lack of knowledge regarding how the Kim regime functions.
Those North Korean citizens most likely to be dissatisfied are too busy surviving – getting on with life itself – to have learned much about how the system works above the lowest local level.
Without understanding the regime well enough to know its weak points and vulnerabilities, attempting to mount an insurrection would be suicidal.
It is most likely that any resistance would be condemned to only isolated instances of complaints about specific policies or actions – just as before – rather than a great rebellion against the system itself.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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