[Viewpoint] A ‘pennies from heaven’ strategy

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[Viewpoint] A ‘pennies from heaven’ strategy

Seventy-one-year-old veteran actress Jun Won-joo is a household name in North Korea thanks to her famous blender that, the claim goes, can even grind bricks. The affordable blender got into North Korean homes via Chinese smugglers. Thanks to its reasonable price - $100 - the blender is a best seller in the black market and a must-have for newlyweds. When North Koreans shop for a blender, they look for Jun’s face on the box.

The Chinese city of Dandong is connected to the North Korean border city of Shineuiju by an 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) “North Korea-China friendship pipeline.” China has never formally cut off the oil that goes through the pipeline. But at times a supposed technical glitch occurs. Then the Chinese cite “urgent repair work” and turn off the faucet on the pipeline.

Coincidentally, every time the “repair work” is warranted, North Korea has previous done something to upset Beijing. When North Korea rejected the six-party talks in 2003 and February of this year, the pipeline froze. The North Koreans later turned up at the meetings.

Many people are demanding a hard-line response to North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island. But I have doubts about the effect and repercussions of military retaliation. Instead, I recommend Aesop’s fable about the superior power of sunshine over the north wind.

China cannot go on taking North Korea’s side forever.

The Chinese learned a lesson after the Tiananmen Square massacre of how rough foreign censure can be. The Chinese invited foreign journalists to their capital for the historic visit by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the spring of 1989 and instead found themselves at the center of the international spotlight when the scene turned into a bloodbath because of deadly clashes between demonstrators and army troops. China was labeled a ruthless regime and suffered international sanctions.

Soon after North Korea’s surprise bombardment of Yeonpyeong, China sent State Councilor Dai Bingguo to Seoul for a tete-a-tete with President Lee Myung-bak. Beijing considered South Korea a victim of a ruthless attack. It may have called for restraint because it considered Seoul much more reasonable and rational than Pyongyang. China, with its newfound status as one of the two superpowers of the world, cannot continue defending a rogue nation. It’s hard to sustain its international position through diplomacy based on muscle alone.

Among many possible measures and responses to the Yeonpyeong attack, President Lee’s comment stands out. “There is no power that can override a change led by the people. We have to watch closely for positive changes from North Korean citizens,” he said.

According to Karl Marx’s theory, North Korea is a sinking ship. The economy is incapable of sustaining itself. With the lower structure (the material foundation) crumbling, it’s only a matter of time before the upper level of political and social control falls apart. The currency revaluation was a debacle that only enlarged the private markets. The biggest threat to the Kim royal family, in fact, is the packaged image of Jun Won-joo.

North Koreans will likely continue their guerilla warfare. It will be hard for the victim to get an upper hand in a battle so asymmetrical. Since we’re guaranteed to lose these skirmishes, wouldn’t it be better to be more creative? Instead of artillery, why not fire bags of cash across the border? U.S. dollars will make a bigger impact on North Korea society than any propaganda pumped through loudspeakers at the front line. North Koreans will certainly know who’s sending this rain of cash.

Unlike the money distributed by past governments in the name of the Sunshine Policy, which went into the pockets of the regime’s leaders, the cash from the sky will fall into the hands of common North Korean citizens.

We do not have to worry about financing such a charity air drop. We can use some of the money earmarked for the National Intelligence Agency, from which we receive less intelligence than from Kim Jong-il’s former sushi chef.

Such a tactic will obviously contrast with the deadly fire from North Korea. We can show who the warmonger is. Only then will China move.

The textbook says that in this case, responding with sophisticated psychological tactics - not weaponry - is the key to victory.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Chul-ho
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