Another glimpse inside the real North Korea, from the excellent Daily NK:
The mobilization of factory workers for military training exercises is having a considerable effect on economic activity in North Korea, Daily NK has learned. In particular, much light industrial production capacity has already been idle for around a month.
A source from Chongjin in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on the 18th, “The only factory work teams that are operational right now are those making stuff for the military; almost everyone else has been mobilized for the military exercises. Since other teams are not producing anything, workers in them are not being given food, not even for just a few meals each, and this is making life even harder for them and their families.”...
In North Korea, it is not only ‘military factories’ that produce military goods; rather, every factory has a work team dedicated to the production of one military item or another. According to the source, for a month there has been no production on other lines, while only the military lines are operational.
“In the case of Chongjin Wood Processing Factory, they’ve been producing nothing but ammunition boxes for a month, where they were previously accustomed to producing chairs, wardrobes, and cupboards for storing bedding,” the source said. “The workers had been living reasonably well, but right now they are complaining about how tough it is.”
In the case of Kimchaek Iron and Steel Complex, one of the largest industrial entities in the region, among many tens of work teams only the personnel required for weapons production are still working; the remaining thousands of workers have been mobilized for military training.
The source noted, “Workers in any and all enterprises are used to receiving a share of production with which to maintain themselves and their families, but right now, with having to spend days in the mountains or down in underground tunnels, their hardships are being significantly exacerbated." There is a trickle down effect in the wider economy, he added, saying, "The problems extend down to traders, who are accustomed to getting the factory distribution to sell.”
In other words, this war mobilisation is unsustainable.
Under the departed Dear Leader, there was at least some measure of balance. The Songun military-first principle held sway then as now, of course, and the level of vitriolic rhetoric aimed at South Korea and the US and Japan was constant and unrelenting, but there was some sense of a cunning plan; 0f a canny political operator at work.
Now, though, with the new Fat Controller Kim Jong-Un, there's a strong feeling that it's all getting out of control. As a sign of his weakness and insecurity, and doubtless under all kinds of internal pressures, and in-fighting within the top brass which we don't know about, he just keeps pressing the same buttons that worked for his father, but he has to press them harder and harder. Up with the militarisation; up with the vicious rhetoric; up with the provocations and the bluster. He doesn't know what else to do. Now the whole country's on a war footing, the economy - such as it was - is imploding, and maybe for the first time in the history of the DPRK there's a sense that the suffering people may not be prepared to tolerate this increased hardship much longer.
The logic of his position, then, may force him into some reckless action. He's backed himself into a corner. South Korea's western islands are looking increasingly vulnerable. If he doesn't do something he's going to look weak, and all that hardship is going to look like it was all for nothing to the wretched populace. And, as the economy tanks, he has to do something sooner rather than later....