Monday, February 27, 2006

What's the difference between...

Communism and Capitalism? Less than most people think.

Sure, North Korea is by anybody's economic and civil definition a complete and total failure. Starvation, quasi-slave labor, totalitarianism, repression... The picture is ugly. However, they are obviously catching on. The "management" elite of North Korea are beginning to understand that they can have their cake and eat it too--i.e., they can still be a managing elite and unfairly exploit labor under capitalism too!!! (How exciting for them!):

If the leaders of the two Koreas have their way, Hwang's factory, with its 326 North Korean workers and seven South Korean managers, will represent the economic future of the peninsula.
"Kaesong Industrial Park [in North Korea], a place where the South's capital and technology and the North's land and labor are being combined to a make a new prosperity," an American-accented voice announced on a peppy information video shown to the first group of foreign reporters to tour the site, only several hundred meters north of the demilitarized zone.
Almost four years after the initial agreement for the park, the legal and infrastructure building blocks finally seem to be in place for explosive growth. Over the next year, the number of South Korean factories and North Korean workers is to nearly quadruple, to 39 factories and 15,000 employees.
By 2012, the industrial park is to spread over 67 square kilometers, or 26 square miles, and to employ 730,000 North Koreans, almost 8 percent of the work force in this impoverished nation, which has a total population of 23 million." [Source: IHT, "For Managers, a Korean Paradise"]

Some people will praise this as an ouverture to the global economy. To me it signals yet another fall towards the bottom. We have heard for decades how bad it is for North Korea to exploit its workers under Communism, yet, when financiers for Seoul fund the factories, the "maquiladoras," the exploitation, we have no issues whatsoever.

Tell me, what is the difference between these two photos? (The first is from the IHT article on Korea, the second one I took in Mexico)
courtesy AP Photos

Now here's mine:
Photos by me.

So now South Korea wants to create its own maquiladoras and the usual caveats appear:

In the United States, American labor and human rights activists may object to employment conditions here.
At Kaesong, the minimum wage for the 48-hour week is $57.50. But $7.50 is deducted for "social charges" paid to the North Korean government. The remaining $50 is paid to a North Korean government labor broker. None of the South Korean factory managers interviewed would guess how much of the $50 salary ends up in the pockets of workers.
"The exact amount is determined by North Korean authorities," said Kim Dong Keun, a South Korean who chairs the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee.
Under labor contracting arrangements in Russia and Eastern Europe, North Korea's government often withholds half of their workers' salaries.
Attempts to interview seamstresses at the Shinwon, factory elicited evasive responses and intervention by South Korean guides.
Yes, human rights organizations should be very concerned. Fortunately, the article normalizes the situation and says, essentially, "hey--don't worry, it's all going to be ok": "In our view, the agreement applies to goods produced only in South Korea and the United States," an U.S. Embassy official in Seoul told reporters. "We hope that the Kaesong issue won't be a major hurdle in reaching the comprehensive goal of signing the free-trade agreement."

Exploitation is great!!! Let's get started.

So tell me again what's the difference between Communism and Capitalism. For me the answer is that Communists haven't realized that they can continue to exploit populations under the "freer" system of Capitalism. And if you think that the U.S. economy is getting better, well, you must be very, very rich already and not reading this. Go read this over at the Left Coaster, and you'll see what I mean.