Would the implosion of North Korea be that bad?
Noah Millman lists as one of the “bad things that haven’t happened yet” the implosion of North Korea:
Maybe this isn’t exactly a “bad thing” since North Korea suffers under one of the most evil regimes on earth, but the implosion would also bring enormous suffering, which is why it makes the cut.
Noah’s a smart guy so I’m sure he knows all this, but the North Korean people live under a regime in which starvation is routine, if not the norm, and their people live in constant fear of being sent to some of the most brutal gulags the world has ever seen. I’m not really sure how much more enormous their suffering could be: The situation in North Korea is already a humanitarian crisis of the first order. That we Americans pretty much ignore this is both a discredit to our national character and a primary lesson in why we can’t let rogue regimes attain nuclear deterrents in the future.
Now, I think the implosion of North Korea could be a bad thing, depending on how it played out. Odds are the implosion would be caused by the military (the only body with enough power in that country to challenge Kim Jong Il internally), and odds are they’d pick a fight with the South Koreans (or the Japanese) in order to maintain internal stability. And if that happened, well, there’s another war we’d have to take part in.
But if the implosion was caused by a genuine populist uprising, and the military joined the side of the people, the implosion could alleviate much of the incredible suffering of the people in that country. Forced to guess, I’d say the first scenario is more likely, but you never know. Either way, let’s not suggest that an implosion of internal security in the Hermit Kingdom would make life drastically worse for the average North Korean: Their lives are already pretty terrible.