Land of the Morning Calm
North Korea Today. Edited by Robert A. Scalapino. (Pall Mall Press, 27s. 6d.) The Centre of the World : Communism and the Mind of China. By Robert S. Elegant. (Methuen, 42s.)
TOGETHER, both the books on the two halves of divided Korea provide an indispensable intro- duction to that country's affairs since 1945. There can be little doubt they will in the future stand next on the shelf to George McCune's Korea Today (1950), previously the best single volume on modern Korea.
Mr. Reeve was formerly adviser to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea. His useful historical account of Korea's relationship with the Celestial Empire; of the subsequent period of Japanese colonial rule, of independence, and of the war of 1950-53 leads to the story of Presi- dent Rhec's regime and its aftermath. He ends with General Park's successful struggle early last year with Colonel Kim Chong Pil, formerly head of the ROK's Central Intelligence Agency.
But as the writer makes quite clear, behind the Byzantinisms of ROK politics is a serious debate over 'the form of government suitable to the country at its present stage.' Unlike the disgusting ritual of political St. Valentine's Day massacres in Pyongyang, ROK politics really are funda- mentally about the best way eventually to achieve government by consent.
Yet all economic and political problems in South Korea come back to the artificial division of the country, with the industrialised north cut off from the agricultural south. On Rhee's rule and its inevitable collapse, Mr. Reeve is both objective and compassionate, seeing that the aged patriot's true tragedy was 'that a lifetime devoted to his country should have left so little of lasting value.' Without doubt this study will remain the standard introduction to the complex politics of the ROK for the foreseeable future. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is probably the least known of Asian Communist States in the West, and Professor Scalapino's
symposium, based on last year's special North Korean issue of The China Quarterly, is long
overdue. It should be admitted immediately that Kim II Sung's 'flying horse' programme of economic development had made considerable progress since 1953. A recent Japanese observer has commented that there is a 'more intense and compelling air about North Korean reconstruc- tion than that of the Chinese.' More significantly as far as intra-bloc doctrinal disputes are concerned, a Soviet journal comments that 'Among the Socialist nations of Asia, the DPRK was first along the road to establishing Socialism.'
The detailed pieces here on NK industry and agriculture show how this regimented economic progress has been achieved. More interesting possibly are the articles on Pyongyang's domestic and foreign policy. Ever since 1953 the Korean Workers' Party has tended to look towards the CCP rather than the CPSU—Professor Glenn Paige suggests that this essentially opportunist manoeuvring is due in part to the inadequacies of the USSR's air defence effort over North Korea during the war. By the end of the 1950s there was a KWP flirtation with an agrarian system analogous to the Communes —now abandoned; and fifteen months ago we find the DPRK standing by the Chinese not only on the 'revisionist' schism but on the Indian border dispute and the Cuban missile crisis: `Peking had no stauncher public ally than Pyongyang.'
As far as domestic politics are concerned there is still a full-scale Stalinist personality cult of Kim 11 Sung, the combined Ulbricht and Rakosi of the 'socialist world system' in the Far East. Not only has Kim survived his war of aggression against the south which threw the entire world into turmoil, and which cost the DPRK well over a million casualties. but he has eliminated by murder, imprisonment, exile or forced suicide all possible rivals in the KWP. Thus in the last decade the 'domestic faction,' the 'Soviet-Russian' faction, and the 'Yenan group' have all vanished. Kim has even survived a putsch instigated by General. Chang Pyong-san, one of the Communist negotiators at Panmunjom during 1951-53. More- over Pyongyang's formidable armed forces are now totally infiltrated by organs of the KWP and the Interior Ministry. As leader of the small `Kapsan clique,' named after a group of pre-1939 `guerrillas' in North Korea and who landed in Russian uniform at Wonsan in September, 1945, Kim is undisputed autocrat of the DPRK. If the lesson of Mr. Reeve's volume is that it is infinitely difficult to establish political democracy on economic quicksands, then Professor Scalapino's symposium will remain an important source book on how the totalitarian apparatus enables a hand- ful of men to subjugate an entire State.
At a time when Chinese studies, thanks perhaps to the various problems raised by the victory of the CCP in the civil war and subsequent Sino-Soviet conflict, are increasingly and neces- sarily coming under the dominance of academic specialists, Mr. Elegant's volume on the Peking regime and its historical roots is particularly welcome as an engaging study in the best tradi- tions of Anglo-American journalism—the writer was for some years the Newsweek correspondent in Hong Kong and is a fluent Mandarin speaker.
Basically, we have here a splendid piece of synthesis: of Father Ricci's diaries and Macartney's journal; of Arthur Waley and the State Department's 'China White Paper' of 1949;
of Robert North and Allen Whiting on Moscow and the Chinese Communists; and of Robert Lifton and the literature of the infamous 'Rectification Campaigns' on thought reform. I can only nervously hope here that we may accept Mr. Elegant's tendency to discount the theory and practice of thought reform as crude Pavlovian- ism, for after all there must be many of us whose childish fears of Dr. Fu Man Chu have only been revised by our frantic re-readings of The Manchurian Candidate. Yet, surely. Mr. Elegant's approach is the right one: Mao Tse-tung is obviously bewildered by the intractibility of the monstrous abstractions that haunt the days of modern rulers- the lack of 50 million tons of rice, railroads that race forever behind essential schedules; multitudes; multi- tudes of engineers demanding steel, when there is no steel. The man who insists that nuclear bombs are harmless 'paper tigers' is obviously adrift in the modern world of computers, auto- mation, and an interlocked world-wide economy.
The truth is that it is this megalomaniac ruler of the new Middle Kingdom who is the paper tiger. Once again, the Emperor has no clothes.