Michael Gerson

SEOUL -- In past elections for North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly, authorities have reported 100 percent voter participation and a 100 percent approval rate for all the candidates. During the last election, however, the government admitted a 99.98 percent voter turnout -- though public approval held steady at 100 percent. Such are the increments of North Korean concessions to reality.

The regime's constitution is deception. Everything, starting with the birthplace of its leader, is a lie. In more than 60 years, North Korea has never published an honest or complete set of economic indicators. Its history books simply make up events -- Americans who harvest organs of Koreans in hospital basements, or missionaries who crucify Korean children.

So it is not easy to part the curtain on the internal dynamics of the regime itself. But South Korean academics and government officials report recent glimpses. After much delay, Kim Jong Il's third son, Kim Jong Eun -- reputed to be a carbon copy of his father -- has been chosen as successor. The crown prince is young (27) and inexperienced, which seems to be the point. Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law has been appointed a kind of guardian or prince regent. In the event of Kim Jong Il's death, North Korea's old guard -- a few dozen faceless bureaucrats and generals in their 70s and 80s -- would remain in control.

Rush Limbaugh

The North Korean regime is part Stalinist political organization, part dynasty and part mafia family. The capos depend on the authority of the don for their survival and Rolexes, but they also seek to control him, especially during a transition of power.

The North Korean criminal enterprise has one main goal -- the accumulation of hard currency, used to support its lifestyle and to purchase military hardware. It gains currency through narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting, the sale of arms and nuclear technology, and a successful extortion racket. The mafia muscle, in this case, is 1.5 million soldiers, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and some 13,000 artillery tubes aimed at downtown Seoul. From 1998 to 2008, South Korea attempted to buy protection with $2.2 billion in cash. This ATM policy was remarkably transparent on both sides. The Two Koreas Summit in 2000 was delayed for a day because $500 million in cash had not yet been wired to a North Korean account.

Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
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