Pyongyang Calling

December 23, 2008 3:00 PM

According to the Rodong Sinmun, official organ of the Korean Workers Party, "The 'Dollar Empire' has crashed into the cellar, and the financial sector, economics sector, and of course the political sector, are all gasping for breath as they beg for foreign assistance."1 The reason: astronomical expenditures on cruel, barbarous, blood-stained campaigns of mass murder to plunder Middle Eastern oil driven by Americas "limitless greed and aspiration to dominate the world" for which it will face an inevitable sentence of death.

Wielding adjectives not seen in American journalism since the 19th century—nearly everything the US government does is "brigandish"—North Korean commentators have focused on the backbreaking burden of Americas massive internal and external debts due to its limitless military expenditure in the pursuit of global political domination, and the concomitant implications for the centrality of the US dollar in the international financial system. As one Rodong Sinmun writer puts it, "the US financial crisis represents the end of the Dollar era…the United States' ruling power, which enabled the United States to control the capitalist world by exploiting the status of the dollar, is crumbling down. As a matter of fact, the capitalist world is no longer listening to what the United States says and is trying to escape the spillover from the collapsing US economy."2 How does one say "exorbitant privilege" in Korean?

On the basis of this analysis, the North Korean pundits offer occasional international policy advice. Fans of special drawing rights (SDRs) will be happy to know that the Rodong Sinmun supports the replacement of a key currency system with a multilateral one. But mainly the North Koreans are concerned with their own fate—how to escape "the vortex of globalization" and preserve their own, superior, system.3 Unsurprisingly, they are skeptical of capital account opening and exposure to international capital flows that could "render the national economy bankrupt."

More broadly they regard the economic sphere as just one more manifestation of a dangerous world ruled by "jungle law" where innocent North Korea must fend off the depredations of imperialists bent on pillage. It's not the perspective of a regime that is likely to surrender its nuclear weapons easily. Especially to blood-stained brigands.

Korean translations by Jennifer Lee, research assistant.



1. 12/18/08, "Sounds of Sighing from the White House," Rodong Sinmun (in Korean).

2. 12/14/08, "What Is the Underlying Cause of the American Economy’s Hailstorm?," Rodong Sinmun (in Korean).

3. "International Community Urged to Draw Lessons from Worldwide Financial Crisis," Korean News (accessed on December 23, 2008).