After interviewing North Korean border-crossers in China, reporter Howard W. French notes in today’s NYT how their perceptions about their leader and their place in the wider world are changing.
In interview after interview, they spoke of the huge shift in perspective they experienced upon entering China. “When I lived in Korea, I never thought my leaders were bad,” said one woman in her 50’s, a farmer who had brought her grown daughter to Yanji recently from her home not far from the other side of the border for treatment of an intestinal ailment. “When I got here, I learned that Chinese can travel wherever they want in the world as long as they have the money. I learned that South Korea is far richer, even than China.”…
Asked how they felt now, after having seen some of the outside world, each person interviewed said his or her illusions about North Korea had been shattered. “There is no way I can believe my government again,” said one person who had been in China only a few weeks. “They spend all their time celebrating the leaders. There is one thing I have understood in China, and that is, as long as there is no freedom, we will never get richer.”
I’ve felt little need to post on recent developments in Kyrgyzstan. It’s already well covered by Nathan Hamm, PubliusPundit, and other blogs who are regularly linked to by big blogs like Instapundit. But here’s a bit of historical perspective by Democracy Guy, in a post entitled Dominos Fall Harder from West to East.
When communism fell, it fell literally from west to east. The further east one travels from the Berlin Wall, the less democratic tradition the new democracies had to fall back on. So Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Baltics, were the first to emerge from the rubble intact, free, vibrant, with traditions built on Western European foundations. Slovakia had a harder time, but has turned a corner. Slovenia escaped by the skin of its teeth as Yugoslavia crumbled into ethnic genocide. Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, bled for years. Ukraine rotted for more than a decade before the Orange Revolution. Belarus simply reverted to Stalinism. Russia perpetually teeters on the brink of a return to authoritarianism. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan descended into ethnic conflict and militaristic authoritarianism before Tbilisi tasted freedom once more last year.
And in Central Asia, where Kyrgystan sits in the mountains, a statist fascism of the most extreme kind has taken hold. Kyrgystan was once a breath of fresh air among the near North Korean level of dictatorship in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. But communism’s fall left the most rubble the further east you go from Berlin, and Kyrgystan today groans under the weight, falling ever further away from democracy.
For more, see Dan Drezner’s equivocal blogpost (and comments) on The Fourth Wave of Democratization?–with emphasis on the punctuation at the end of the title.