With the news that North Korea has detonated an H-bomb and even had veteran news anchorwoman Ri Chun-hee come out of retirement just to make the announcement on state television, the world has gone into a frenzy to ask what can be done about rogue state. Sanctions clearly do nothing as the state ideology of self-sufficiency or "Juche", means that they already blithely carry on as thought the rest of the world doesn't even exist.
Considering that Kim Jong-Un is even more difficult to read than his father Kim Jong-Il (who was still as mad as a cat in a corn flakes box), it's hard to know whether this way a display of sabre rattling purely because it's Kim Jong-Un's 32nd birthday today (8th Jan) or if this is in response to something else.
Speaking as someone who has neither studied political science, nor who knows anything about the world of international diplomacy, I'm perfectly qualified to offer an opinion on how to defeat North Korea and bring in into some degree of normalcy. The reason for this is that just like Kim Jong-Il, I have an over inflated sense of personal worth and am equally as mas as mad as a cat in a corn flakes box.
I could defeat North Korea with a two word policy. It's a similar policy that worked against the Soviet Union, East Germany and has brought China closer to the world. Those two words are "Wal" and "Mart".
I suspect that one of the reasons that the Soviet Union eventually collapsed, isn't because of armed conflict but because of Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of Perestroika and opening the economy of overseas businesses. In that period, foreign goods began to appear in Russian stores and I think that one of the greatest triumphs of capitalism can be summed up in a single photograph.
This is a photograph of a McDonalds on the left and the State Historical Museum of Russia on the right. Less than one hundred metres away is Red Square and a short walk to the mausoleum of Lenin and the Kremlin.
On the 31st of January 1990 and less than three months after Berliners began to hack away at the Berlin Wall (demolition proper wouldn't begin until 13th of June 1990), the first McDonald's opened in Pushkinskaya Square in the Tverskoy District of Moscow. On opening day, more than 8000 people queued for several hours to purchase a Big Mac¹.
Now I'm not about to debate the relative merits of a Big Mac (because I can't honestly see the point in paying more than five dollars which can be done better at an independent burger joint like Greco's in Lawson or any fish and chip shop) but the fact remains that McDonald's in Moscow, probably achieved more goodwill in a single day's trading among Muscovites than anything else in Moscow since the October Revolution.
Just like the red flags which brought down Tsar Nicholas II and the house of Romanov, the things that brought down the house of the Soviets also had its own special colour; they they were golden arches.
If you look on Google Maps in Moscow today, it looks like any other European city. I've found stores selling products from Levi's, Fendi, Zara and the roads are full of Fords, Opels, Skodas, Range Rovers, Audis. The place looks so familiar apart from the writing in Cyrillic, that I might even be looking at the centre of Melbourne.
This works equally as well for a place like Beijing as well. Deng Xiaoping realised that he couldn't keep the world outside the gates forever and especially following the June Fourth Incident, otherwise known as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, China began to open itself up to the rest of the world.
Admittedly it probably still doesn't have a proper handle on how to integrate markets into a command economy, as evidenced by the fact that the Shenzhen Stock Exchange suspends trading when things fall "too far" but if you look in the Dongcheng District on Google Maps, you can find things like KFC, ads for Tissot watches and Kia cars and even a Raffles Hotel. Google hasn't been given a free run to send its cars around China but I'm sure that it's only a matter before they will be allowed to.
I think that signs like McDonalds in Red Square and KFC in Tiananmen Square are like glowing beacons into the night. It's worth remembering that even during the height of the Second World War and when the Allies and the Nazis were dropping bombs on each other, all over Europe and possibly collectively causing the deaths of as many as 75 million people, that it was Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck who appeared on Axis and Allied aircraft alike.
I'm reminded of something which John Green s in Episode 39 of Crash Course World History²:
But first, let’s see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, it’s silly putty. Silly putty: the thing that won the Cold War. This is exactly the kind of useless consumer good that would never have been produced in the Soviet Union. And it is because we had so much more consumer spending, on stuff like silly putty, that we won the Cold War. Go team!
- Crash Course - World History: USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War, 18th Oct 2012
I don't think that the Cold War was won because the United States simply outspent the Soviet Union (though I do think that putting twelve clowns on the moon was one of the greatest economic diversions that the world has ever seen and the reason why any of us are still here), but I do think that when people in countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and China, realised that they could buy more stuff at cheaper prices than what they could under their closed communist systems, that that certainly was a factor in changing the way society thought about how it saw the rest of the world.
For this reason, I don't think that imposing sanctions on North Korea is likely to achieve anything whatsoever. For the average person on the street, the man on the Pyongyang omnibus, extra economic sanctions on the countries is going to make three-quarters of diddly squat of a difference. I doubt that they'd even be remotely aware of such a thing.
However, if companies like Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Target or K-Mart were to negotiate their way into opening stores in the crazy Korea of the north, I suspect that a revolution would occur; similar to what we saw in Eastern Europe on the dismal side of the Iron Curtain when it was lifted, or in China which accelerated after the British lease on Hong Kong expired.
The anthem of the revolution which brought down communism and which has changed China, is not The Internationale but The Symphony of Sixpence played on the Wall Street Piano - the sounds of the cash register.
The way to bring down Kim Jong-Un is not with military force or the dropping of bombs, but with the delivery of Mars and Snickers bars, Wranglers and Levi's jeans and with the special envoy of Colonel Sanders, The Burger King, and Ronald McDonald.