After WWII, Feffer writes, the Americans installed Syngman Rhee in the South and the Russians installed Kim Il Sung in the North. The Rhee regime had little popular support. In 1948 on the island of Cheju, in suppressing a rebellion, the regime killed about 60,000. Overall the U.S. backed regime killed about 100,000 oppositionists in its first five years.. South Korea started many border clashes with the North beginning in the Summer of 1949 causing huge casualties
Kim Il Sung, in the famous early 1950 meeting that gets anti-communist ideologues all excited, was granted permission to invade the South after he convinced Stalin that he would get the operation over with quickly and thus hopefully discourage the Americans from intervening militarily. The Americans were eventually able to push the North Koreans back. . Macarthur's deliberately provocative march northward up the peninsula towards the Yalu river, Korea's border with China, brought the Chinese army into the conflict. The Americans engaged in extensive bombing and napalming of civilians. They wiped off the map about three quarters of North Korea. In June 1953, they started bombing dams and water reservoirs in North Korea, which effects included the mass flooding of rice and other agricultural fields. Thus by inducing starvation the Americans induced the North to agree to a truce. Some Nazis got hanged for implementing such a policy during WWII. The North Koreans committed their share of atrocities.
U.S. planners were embarrassed as the North's economy regularly outstripped the South's into the mid-70's. General Park Chung Hee seized power in the South in 1961. He set up a state planning economic regime. It was based on tight state discipline of labor and consumption austerity with workers treated pretty badly. Unrest spread and in 1980, the military under the new dictator General Chun perpetrated a bloody massacre in the city of Kwangju. A revitalized labor movement eventually forced democratic change on the U.S. backed military. By the late 80's South Korea was one of the top economies in the world; in 1960 it had been at the level of Sub-Saharan Africa. Its principles violated all the prescriptions of the free market-as did the rest of the Asian tigers and has the U.S. with its military-industrial complex fueling its hi tech economy. . In any case, South Korea was pressured to remove controls on capital flows and this led to the Asian financial crises of the late 90's. Western companies swarmed in to buy up the fire sale of bankrupt indigenous companies. This incident of course, makes North Korea pause about extending its free market reforms) as does the extreme poverty and social chaos existing in China's Free Market revolution.
In the 70's North Korea borrowed from foreign creditors and fell heavily into debt. Agricultural plots for private sale were allowed in the 80's. The latter led to clearing of land and deforestation, which contributed mightily to the floods contributing to the future famine in the mid-90's.The communist block disappeared as a source of trade and subsidies. One of the key pillars of the 1994 agreement with the U.S. was to move towards the lifting of U.S. sanctions on the country. The Clinton administration made and broke promises regarding the sanctions issue and helping the North become a member of International financial institutions. Meanwhile, it greatly increased the amount of arms flowing to U.S. allies in the region. Aid in constructing the light water reactors was scant. The Clinton administration promised North Korea the lifting of all sanctions if it would freeze its missile program; when North Korea agreed to this, it then further demanded its missile production be completely eliminated. In 1998, it announced that its North Korean plans included a possible first strike on it and revived missile defense research.
The only "admission" of NK might have been that they merely have the capability produce nuclear stuff. In the meeting with James Kelly, they made huge concessions on many issues. The North Koreans paint an exaggerated picture of their military capabilities to deter the neoconservative militarists in the Bush administration. and American elites want to exaggerate it to justify subsidies and sales for American arms manufacturers. The author writes that American planners also want to keep the Korean peninsula divided and the conflict alive; they are fearful that Korea would be part of a potentially powerful economic and political block in NE Asia including Russia and China.. The North has not the technology to make its missiles go far and be accurate. It has not the ability to miniaturize its warheads that it might use, assuming the not confirmed notion that it has preserved enough plutonium for a nuclear bomb from its pre-1994 operations. There is no evidence its missiles have heat shields to protect them from burning up on re-entry into the atmosphere. In other words it has not the capability to deliver biological and chemical weapons, which it may not have enough of to be any remote threat. Its nuclear related facilies are about 50 years old and unable to obtain any repair. The neoconservatives raised a bugaboo about two possible nuclear processing facilities in the late 90's and North Korea allowed them to be inspected but nothing was found. North Korea's army is badly malnourished and under clothed. It seems to have been put to heavy use in rebuilding the country's crumbling infrastructure instead of military training. The author quotes an account of a naval skirmish between North and South in 1999 where the North Koreans were so backward they had to operate the vessel's weapons exposed on deck while the South Koreans were all tucked inside their vessel with all the latest radar and computers. In North Korea's entire government budget is several billion dollars less than South Korea's military budget.
North Korea has a vicious dictatorship, the author writes but the Americans have made things much worse.The Bush administration has greatly cut back on food aid in the country which significantly reduced, though far from eliminated the malnutrition problem in the country.