North Korea is the kind of state that only George Orwell could have envisaged. But there are some countries that have a vested interest in keeping it in place. To let it go under is too risky.
North Korea has endured its worst food shortage in a decade, with six million people starving, a consequence of poor economic management of its centrally planned system, a series of bad harvests caused by harsh winters, flooding and exhausted agricultural land, and the regime's unwillingness to spend its dwindling hard currency reserves on buying food for its 24 million people.
This alarming graph in the Washington Post shows that since 1994, after Kim Jong Il took over, the economy started shrinking noticeably, per capita incomes fell, and the country became dependent on emergency UN food aid to stave off famines that had already killed as many as 3 million people. North Korea became the world's only industrialized country that couldn't feed itself.
But then, the world has an interest in maintaining the regime because there are too many geopolitical risks if it falls apart. Veteran journalist Eric Margolis says South Korean and Japanese strategists are terrified about what would happen if North Korea collapsed. "What frightens South Korean strategists the most is not North Korea's small nuclear program, but rather what they call, "unexpected reunification:" the total collapse of the North Korean state, sending millions of starving refugees south across the Demilitarized Zone,'' Margolis writes. "South Korea is in no financial position to feed million or, more onerous, build a viable North Korean. In any event, many South Koreans do not want reunification. Japan also fears waves of Korean boat people heading for its shores. Tokyo prefers a divided to a united Korea, which would be a serious economic rival."
Similarly, as The Wall Street Journal reports, China is also concerned that a potential collapse could create tensions with the United States. "China is anxious to avert an escalation of hostilities with the South, fearing that could complicate its own international relations, or worse, draw it into another proxy conflict with the U.S. China also worries that a total economic or political collapse of the North Korean regime could send a flood of refugees into its northeastern provinces and bring many of the roughly 30,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea right to its borders-a concern that has been magnified by the Obama administration's intent to pivot U.S. foreign policy toward Asia."
If that happens, it will rock the global economy.