How Upheaval in Syria Could Serve as a North Korean Tipping Point: Huanqiu Shibao

[Updated 3 June 2018]: 

Significant news today from North Korean state media in Damascus:

[Original post]:

“Syria Explodes with Powerful Demonstrations: Political Situation Continues to be Chaotic” : Huanqiu Shibao Banner

Pang Zhongying [庞中英], Syria Moves Toward Regime Change: Making a Shock to the Situation on the Korean Peninsula [叙利亚若变天,将冲击朝鲜半岛的局势], Huanqiu Shibao [Global Times], 6 February 2012, translated by Adam Cathcart.

(Original title: What Does the Syrian Political Situation Model Signify to North Korea? [叙利亚政局对朝鲜有示范意义吗?] — Huanqiu editor)

The abundant uprisings and revolutions in the Arab region have now lasted more than a year. The principle action in this field of political crisis and political turmoil [政治风暴] has been to sweep non-constitutional monarchies from the Arab world and to establish a series of republican systems in accordance with the European “democratic nation-state” forms of government [欧洲“民族国家”模式], rather than the kind of Moroccan or Saudi Arabia monarchical system. Yes, the revolution impacted the monarchies and of Morocco, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, but, in those countries, the wave of revolution has not been sparked into a prairie fire.

Syria’s Political Situation Greatly Influences the Middle East [叙政局走向对中东局势影响大]

A year on, in terms of form, some countries in the Arab world have made tremendous progress in the development of political revolution [政治革命的巨大进展]. Others occupy the line of long-standing autocratic Arab leaders who, although they have not met with the unfortunate fates of stepping down, being tried in a court, or being executed, are themselves no longer able to go on fighting, and will soon step down (see Yemen). Against this revolutionary influence, almost the only exception is Syria’s Assad regime.  This regime has, from the outset, shown its true colors and unambiguously opposed and suppressed the opposition [这个政权从一开始就毫不含糊、旗帜鲜明地抵制和镇压反对派]. But for its part, the Syrian opposition is not to be outdone: out of peaceful and non-violent demonstrations, the opposition has developed like its counterpart in Libya, organizing itself to take up arms to attempt a violent overthrow [暴力推翻] of the Assad regime.

Through all kinds of indications, it has become clear that Assad’s regime is still in control of the situation.  If the opposition relies on its own power alone [若仅靠自身力量], there is no way that it can repeat the Libyan model in Syria and overthrow the Assad regime. However, Europe, the U.S. and other Western countries have already stimulated political changes [发生政局变化] in other Arab countries and are standing on the side of Syria’s opposition. With regard to the internal situation in Syria, the pro-Western [亲西方] United Nations Secretary-General expressed very strongly his close attention to the situation. Despite the support of Russia and other allies, Assad’s regime has been brought under enormous pressure and unprecedented isolation in the international community. In 2012, as the existing internal and external pressures continue to be strengthened, there is the possibility of a Libya-style collapse [该政权存在着利比亚那样的崩溃的可能.]

From the point of view of the regional situation, how the Syrian political situation plays out may be the key to determining the evolution of the Arab regional order. Not only that, but also because Syria can affect the evolution of the situation in the Middle East situation, it may affect areas outside the Middle East and Syria’s close neighbors.  Thus, North Korea. This point should attract people’s attention.

Possibly Creating an Impact on the Korean Peninsula [可能对朝鲜半岛产生冲击]

Syria and the Assad regime are extremely similar to North Korea in Northeast Asia. If the young Assad [小阿萨德] has difficulty holding power or ultimately fails, this is tantamount to a blow upon the newly-born [诞生不久] Kim Jong Un regime. This is because Kim Jong Un and the young Assad’s situations are almost precisely the same: both took power in hereditary succession from their fathers. North Korea’s main allies in the Middle East include Egypt and Syria. Egypt has already undergone democratization, and, no matter how its relations with the DPRK develop, we will get very little information — things are difficult to know — but it can certainly be said that a democratized Egypt will not maintain relations with the DPRK as before.

Seeing things this way, the impact of a Syrian regime change [变天] would absolutely not be limited to the Middle East; in fact, its impact would be felt as far away as North Korea.

If the masses succeed in overthrowing young Assad’s Syrian regime, it can be estimated that the United States and South Korea would take it as a huge inspiration [预计美国和韩国将受到巨大的启发], a breakthrough with which to inspire North Korea’s domestic opposition[朝鲜国内的反对派身上]. Some South Korean scholars believe that North Korea is a kingly system of hereditary succession, and that the [North Korean] people have, more or less, been long accustomed to it, but, if the Syrian people can overthrow their hereditary leaders, the North Korean people can also do so.

If changes sweep Syria, Syria will still be Syria; it will not be incorporated into any other country. However, unlike Syria, if North Korea undergoes such changes [朝鲜若是变天] it will lead the Korean peninsula toward unification won in accordance with the conditions prepared by South Korea. Substantively, the unification of the Korean Peninsula will create a huge transformation in the regional order in Northeast Asia. In terms of economic strength, a reunified Korean Peninsula would be comparable to Japan, and its military strength would overtake Japan as a great power in the Northeast Asian region. At present, the size of the Korean economy is already generally equal to Russia and India. In addition to aerospace and other fields, in so many areas, the level of development and strength of South Korea surpasses that of Russia. A unified Korean peninsula would unleash development and make South Korea “a tiger with wings [如虎添翼],” vaulting Korea into the ranks of the world’s great powers.


  1. There’s a big difference, I think: Syria has no nuclear weapons. Inspirations within South Korea to push North Korea into a situation similar as Syria’s would probably be limited.

    My feeling is that even religious Syrians (whose causes would stand to gain if the Assad regime falls) are looking on with apprehension. In ethnic and religious terms, the country could turn into another Yugoslavia.

    My usual utterances may not suggest that, but I believe that the “Arab Spring” still needs to prove to be more than just a moment of hope, between oppression before and after. The really bad news is that the Assad regime in Syria failed to benefit the country, beyond the Baath cronies.

    The unease about Syria’s future (beyond the many lives the civil war is still going to cost, no matter the outcome) is palpable in this video, too. There is no plain black and white. Beeshou is portrayed as the “elite’s” useful idiot – to be both detested, and to be pitied.

    What are the North Koreans’ hopes and fears? Is there a kind of debate going on among them?

    1. That is one thing which the Chinese press really fails to grapple with — the assumption that there are masses of would-be rebels in the DPRK. This is where the silence on the question of societal make-up (in the public sphere in the PRC, that is) can have a real backlash for the Chinese state. Contrast that with the innundation of sources we have about internal society in the DPRK from outlets like Daily NK, etc.; it seems there is a much deeper understanding not of North Korea’s historical experience — the citizens of China are way ahead there — but of its present day struggles and outlook toward the state among Western commentators, or in the commentariat. If that makes sense! Thanks for the comment, JR.

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