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Topic 8 – The Excluded: North Korea, Burma, Cambodia and Laos. A – Geopolitical Exclusion: North Korea and Burma B – Socioeconomic Exclusion: Cambodia and Laos . Southeast Asia: The Excluded. India. China. Burma. Laos. Mekong. Thailand. Vietnam. Philippines. Cambodia. South China Sea.

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Topic 8 the excluded north korea burma cambodia and laos l.jpg

Topic 8 – The Excluded: North Korea, Burma, Cambodia and Laos

A – Geopolitical Exclusion: North Korea and Burma

B – Socioeconomic Exclusion: Cambodia and Laos

Southeast asia the excluded l.jpg
Southeast Asia: The Excluded Laos










South China Sea


Geopolitical exclusion north korea and burma l.jpg

A Laos

Geopolitical Exclusion: North Korea and Burma

  • 1. North Korea

  • 2. Burma

North korea l.jpg

1 Laos

North Korea

  • A divided country (part 2)

    • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

      • Not democratic.

      • More a dictatorship (leader oriented) than a communist system.

    • Three-class alliance:

      • Peasants / workers / intellectuals.

      • Unlike China where intellectuals were not trusted by the Communist government.

    • One of the most isolated country in the world.

    • “Double-isolation”:

      • The outcome of geopolitical considerations.

      • Against the West (South Korea and the US); since the Korean War.

      • Now against former communist nations: China and Russia; since the mid 1990s.

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1 Laos

North Korea

  • About 22 million inhabitants:

    • Under a strict communist regime longer than anywhere else in Pacific Asia.

    • Little information available; statistics unreliable, if not entirely fabricated.

    • Likely a large waste of human resources.

  • North Korean flag

    • Blue stripes: commitment to peace.

    • Red stripe: path to socialism.

    • Star: Symbol of the leading role played by the Korean Worker's Party.

  • North korea6 l.jpg

    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • North Korea and the Korean War

      • Kim Il-Song (1945):

        • Backed by the Soviet Union.

        • Hard liner communist government north of the 38th parallel.

        • Preparation for an invasion of South Korea (1945 - 1950).

        • Known as the “Great Leader” or the “Eternal Leader”.

      • Invasion of South Korea (1950):

        • One year after American troops left.

        • Triggered the intervention of the United States and the United Nations.

        • Counter the expansion of communism in Pacific Asia (containment policy).

    North korea7 l.jpg

    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • Collectivization; the socialist path

      • Soviet backing in rebuilding the post Korean War economy.

      • North Korea had the bulk of Korea’s raw materials and industries.

      • Nationalism and equality in social classes:

        • Abolition of old Confucian structures and the creation of new ones.

        • Political elite with privileges.

      • Agricultural communes.

      • Labor shortages (Korean war casualties):

        • Induced the recruitment of women in the labor force.

      • Initial industrialization strategies successful:

        • Because of Soviet technology and capital.

      • Started a period of self-sufficiency which led to growing incoherence in its economy policy.

    North korea8 l.jpg

    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • From self reliance to self destruction

      • The collapse of Chinese-Soviet relations reinforced North Korean isolationism (1960).

      • Juche (literally self-reliance) ideology:

        • Improvised in the 1950s for the purpose of cutting off the Soviet Union’s influence.

        • North Korea’s Great Leap Forward.

        • Investment in the heavy industry in the early 1960s was a failure.

        • North Korea stopped publishing economic statistics (1965).

        • Goals of five-year plans were never achieved.

      • Reliance on foreign capital and technology:

        • Never paid its debt, which promoted isolationism even further.

        • Lowest credit rate in the world.

    North korea9 l.jpg

    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • Sunshine policy (early 1990s):

      • North Korea started to open to the outside.

      • Played the nuclear game to gain some advantages such as technological and monetary aid.

      • Signed a nuclear non-proliferation pact (1992), but refused to allow inspectors.

    • End of the Cold War:

      • North Korea lost its main ally, the Soviet Union.

  • “The fuehrer doctrine”; the flawless leader

    • Cult of personality:

      • “The Suryong (Leader) is an impeccable brain of the living body, the masses can be endowed with their life in exchange for their loyalty to him, and the Party is the nerve of that living body.”

      • To reinforce the authority of the leader (Kim Il-Song, then Kim Jong-Il).

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    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • Death of Kim Il-Song (1993):

      • Longest term held by an head of state in modern times (50 years).

      • Had his body mummified.

      • Kim Jong Il (The “Dear Leader”) replaced his father as the head of state.

      • The first father-son transition in a communist regime.

    • Mystifications:

      • Family members attributed heroic acts.

      • The birth of Kim Jong-Il was marked by a new star.

    • Dimensions of intellectual enslavement:

      • Each household must have portraits of the two leaders.

      • About 4% of the GPD spent in propaganda each year.

      • Birthday institutionalized as the “People's Greatest Holiday”.

      • About 40% of the contents of schoolbooks.

      • Pilgrimage to sites visited by the “dear leader”, including his place of birth.

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    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • Militarized society

      • 25-30% of the GNP in military spending.

      • A standing army of about 1.1 million soldiers.

      • Third largest army in the world.

      • 7.5 million militia and reserve forces.

      • 35% of the population integrated in militaristic activities.

      • Maintain the dictatorial government.

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    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • Economic collapse; the failure of socialism

      • Agricultural production:

        • Low agricultural productivity (lack of fertilizers).

        • Deforestation of marginal land for agriculture.

        • Annual grain production from 1987 to 1996 was about 4.4 million tons.

        • Demand was about 6.5 million tons.

        • Shortage of 2.1 million tons of grain every year.

      • Famine of 1995-1998:

        • Flooding destroyed much of the harvest (1995).

        • Claimed an estimated 2 million to 3 million lives.

        • Only 10% of North Korea's rice fields could be worked.

        • North Korea had to rely on South Korea (and other nations) for food.

      • North Korea keeps a stockpile of approximately 1.2 million tons of rice as military provisions.

    North korea13 l.jpg

    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • Rogue State

      • International blackmailing:

        • Using the development of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear) to blackmail the international community for free help.

        • Promised to stop nuclear research in exchange of help (1994).

        • Admitted not respecting this engagement (2002).

        • Claimed to have nuclear weapons (2005).

      • Involved in terrorist activities (mainly against South Korea).

      • Drug production and smuggling:

        • One the world’s largest supplier.

        • Production of about 40 tons of heroin per year.

        • To earn foreign currencies.

        • Farmers encouraged to grow poppies. Processed in government factories.

        • Exported through North Korean companies and diplomatic channels.

    North korea14 l.jpg

    1 Laos

    North Korea

    • Weapons smuggling:

      • Became one of the few sources of foreign income.

      • Sold ballistic missile parts to Pakistan.

      • Tried to sell missile technology to Iraq months before the American invasion (2003).

    • US currency counterfeiting.

  • Signs of openness

    • New industrial zone for South Korean industries opened in 2004.

    • Low North Korean wages.

    • Cultural and linguistic commonalities.

  • Burma l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Overview

      • Ethnic diversity (50 million people):

        • Burmese (Tibetan and Chinese origin); 68%.

        • Chin (India), Shan (Thais) and Mon (Cambodia) minorities.

        • 70% of the population in agriculture.

      • Once the richest country in Southeast Asia.

      • Brief historical overview:

        • Became a British colony (1885).

        • Political unity.

        • Supported the Japanese invasion of 1941.

        • Independence granted (1948).

        • Burma was one of the few country refusing to become a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

        • Promoted exclusion.

    Burma16 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Political control and repression

      • Military coup (1962).

      • The media and the government under the control of a military junta.

      • Political parties were banned and the economy was nationalized.

      • Promoted isolationism.

      • Several communist guerilla movements, promoting instability.

      • Government responded by neutrality in the Cold War period.

    Burma17 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Burmese path to socialism and to self destruction

      • Economic collapse:

        • Declared one of the poorest country in the world by the United Nations.

        • Foreign trade, mainly rice, handled by the government.

        • Impose quotas (15-20%) on farmers, purchased at low price.

        • Sold by the government at world price (institutionalized theft).

        • Millions of farmers put into bankruptcy.

        • 1 million Burmese working in Thailand.

        • 50% of the budget taken by the military.

      • The State Law and Order Restoration Council (1988):

        • Official name of the military governing body.

        • Burma was officially renamed Myanmar (1989).

        • Civil wars by ethnic minorities (Shan and Karen); control a third of the country.

        • Most rebel groups have signed cease-fire accords with the junta.

    Burma18 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Narcotic economy

      • Informal economy oriented along drug production:

        • Backed by the junta (military government).

        • 50-60% of the global opium production.

        • 80% of the heroin arriving in New York is coming from northern Thailand or Myanmar.

      • Parts of the country controlled by warlords:

        • Notably the Shan state (Karen rebel group), formally part of Thailand.

        • Been in a state of civil war for more than 50 years.

        • Constant struggles to control the lucrative drug market.

    Burma19 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Conditions for drug production and trade

      • Poor rural population living on marginal land:

        • Limited productivity of rural land.

        • Difficult to access.

        • Often an ethnic minority.

      • Limited political control and rule of law:

        • Weak / corrupted nation state.

        • Civil unrest, especially in remote regions.

        • Lack of central government control.

        • Warlordism.

      • Porous boundaries:

        • Same ethnic groups on both sides.

        • Artificial or contested boundaries.

        • Difficult to enforce border control.

    Burma20 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • The Golden Triangle

      • Highlands of northern Indochina:

        • Overlaps Thailand, Laos and Burma, with parts of Vietnam and China (Yunnan province).

      • Lawless segment of the region:

        • Eastern Burma controlled by the United Wa State Army.

      • Opium production by mountain tribes (19th century):

        • Chased from southern China.

      • Fast growth in the 1990s:

        • Tripling production.

        • 98% of the production takes place in Burma.

      • 60-70% of the world’s opium:

        • 70% of the heroin in the US comes from the Golden Triangle.


    Hong Kong







    Phnom Penh

    Drug Hub

    Burma21 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Methamphetamine (“Ice”) is a more recent production:

      • Increase the amount of dopamine in the brain.

      • Instant addiction.

      • Severe withdrawal effect.

      • Known as Yaa Baa, “the drug that turns you mad”.

      • $35,000 to $50,000 per kilogram.

    • Shift in role:

      • Thailand now produces little opium.

      • Subject to intense drug trafficking along its border.

      • 2-3 million drug users in Thailand.

    • More lucrative than regular crops:

      • Poppy farmer earns $300 for 7 kg of raw opium.

      • Raw opium converted to 700 grams heroin brick in a factory worth $4,000.

      • Brick worth $80,000 in New York.

      • Turned into 28,000 doses of “cut” heroin earning $280,000.

    Opium cultivation in hectares 1990 2003 l.jpg

    2 Laos

    Opium Cultivation (in hectares), 1990-2003

    Burma23 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Reform failures

      • First elections (1990):

        • Winner of the League for Democracy (Aung San Suu Kyl) was placed under house arrest shortly after.

        • Elections declared void by the military junta.

        • Won the Nobel Peace Price (1991).

      • Failed nation state.

      • Economic embargo by most nations.

    Socioeconomic exclusion cambodia and laos l.jpg

    B Laos

    Socioeconomic Exclusion: Cambodia and Laos

    • 1. The Mekong

    • 1. Cambodia

    • 2. Laos

    The mekong l.jpg

    1 Laos

    The Mekong

    • The Mekong: the hearth of continental Southeast Asia

      • The 12th longest river in the world.

      • The most important river in Southeast Asia.

      • Flows from China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; 4,800 kilometers.

      • Over 60 million people depend on the Mekong and its tributaries:

        • Food, water, transport.

        • Production of rice and vegetables on the floodplains.

        • Along the riverbanks during the dry season.

      • Hydro potential:

        • Many dam projects to harness the power of the Mekong.

        • China has many dam projects upstream.

        • May compromise water flow downstream.

    The mekong26 l.jpg

    1 Laos

    The Mekong







    Cambodia l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Strong history, weak nation

      • Bulk of the Cambodian population along the Mekong River:

        • Khmer group dominant; ethnic homogeneity.

      • Core of the Khmer Empire:

        • Extended to parts of Thailand, Burma, Laos and Vietnam.

        • At its peak in the 12th century.

        • Started to decline and being threatened by its neighbors.

      • French protectorate (1863):

        • Sought protection from its neighbors (Thailand).

      • Annexed to Indochina (1887).

      • Declared its independence during WWII (Japanese occupation).

      • Independence (1955):

        • Prince Sihanouk as the head of state.

        • Neutrality in Vietnam wars between 1950 and 1975.

        • Weak control.

    Cambodia28 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Ho Chi Minh Trail

      • Supplying Viet Minh activities in South Vietnam.

      • Ran through Laos and Cambodia.

      • Neutrality prevented the United States to intervene directly.

    • Loss of neutrality

      • Sihanouk evicted by a general backed by the United States (1970).

      • Cambodia lost its neutrality.

      • Extensive US military action (bombing).

      • Triggered a civil war.





    Da Nang

    Ho Chin Minh Trail




    Phnom Penh


    Cambodia29 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • The killing fields

      • North Vietnam supported a communist guerilla:

        • Named the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot.

        • Died without been prosecuted for his crime against humanity (1998).

        • The guerilla was successful at overthrowing the government (1975).

      • A policy of extermination was launched (1975-1978):

        • Between 1.5 millions Cambodians were exterminated out of 7 millions (20-33% of the population).

        • Movement to remove pre-revolutionary thinking.

        • Cities were emptied.

        • Population sent to the countryside to be “re-educated”.

      • Cambodia lost most of its population with technical skills.

    Cambodia30 l.jpg

    2 Laos


    • Restoration and fragility

      • Vietnamese invasion (1978):

        • Vietnam invaded Cambodia and installed a puppet government.

        • The Vietnamese invasion promoted geopolitical instability with Thailand.

        • Vietnam pulled out of Cambodia (1989).

      • UN intervention (1992):

        • Elections held which brought back Prince Sihanouk in power (1993).

        • Sihanouk was overthrown by Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge (1997).

        • Elections held, re-electing Hun Sen (1998).

      • Lawless society.

      • Tourism as a development tool:

        • Reclaiming its former role as a major tourist destination.

        • Angkor Wat and international tourism.

        • Expected received 1 million tourists in 2004.

    Slide31 l.jpg

    3 Laos


    • A landlocked country

      • One of the ten poorest countries in the world.

      • Small population of about 5.7 million people.

      • Three major ethnic groups in altitudinal distribution:

        • Lao Loum (lowland Lao; 65%).

        • Minorities in the hills and mountainous areas.

        • Lao Theung (midland Lao; 25%).

        • Lao Sung (highland Lao; 10%).

      • Historical perspective:

        • The southern part was annexed by Thailand (1833).

        • Annexed to French Indochina (1885).

        • Independence (1954).

        • Communist guerilla gained control of the country when Vietnam was reunited (1975).

    Slide32 l.jpg

    3 Laos


    • Development issues

      • Landlocked country:

        • Strong impediment for economic growth.

        • Increase imports and export costs.

      • Almost non-existent industrial sector.

      • Relationships improved with Thailand (1992):

        • Construction of the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge (1994).

        • Crosses the Mekong.

        • Links northern Thailand with the capital of Laos, Vientiane.

      • Important hydroelectric potential along the Mekong River basin:

        • Enables Laos to gain foreign currencies.

      • Tourism:

        • Buddhist architecture.

        • Relatively unspoiled landscape.

    Conclusion l.jpg
    Conclusion Laos

    • East and Southeast Asia

      • Global shift taking place.

      • Growing economic importance of East and Southeast Asia.

      • Production, consumption and technological innovation.

    • A challenge to the West

      • Important to understand the nature of the challenge.

    • What does geography reveals?

      • Factor of divisions and diversity (cultural).

      • High density and concentration.

      • Resources scarcity and distribution.

      • The Pacific: a link of Asia to the global economy.