Chairman Kim’s dissolving kingdom

With all this focus on democracy in the Arab world -- or the lack thereof -- let's not forget that there are much, much worse places. This rare insight into life in North Korea [cached here] is a must-read, one that puts things in perspective and reminds us how selective the West can be about spreading democracy. It's not so much North Korea that I'm thinking of -- the discourse on that country is clearly negative -- but China, a country from which the West (and the rest of the world) buys so much with little thought about their democratic values or the fact that they still run slave labor camps and concentration camps. And they're the ones protecting the North Korean regime and harassing the lucky few North Koreans who manage to escape.

If what this Times story says is true and the North Korean regime is dissolving, there will be a much bigger proliferation problem on our hands than anything Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qadhaffi would have produced. We already know it was North Korea that sold uranium to Libya. Imagine the kind of chaos the place will descend into if it really is falling apart, and where other WMD components might end up.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.