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How capitalism is starving North Korea

Paragraph one of this BBC story goes thus:

North Korea is in urgent need of more food aid, the UN has warned.

And the most chilling quote concerns what the South Koreans think of the North Korean nuclear bomb programme.

Our correspondent says that Seoul believes Pyongyang is raising nuclear tensions to extract a better aid offer.

In other words, this is a hostage situation, the hostages being the people of North Korea, and the hostage takers being the government of North Korea.

The usual way to end hostage situations is to storm the place and capture or kill the hostage takers. Although, come to think of it, giving the hostage takers a free, escorted trip to the nearest airport and then plane tickets to the alternative scumbag country of their choice, in exchange for the lives of the surviving hostages, would also be a good way to end this thing. Either scenario would be a big improvement.

My favourite bit of the story comes right at the end.

How come the people of North Korea are being so cruelly treated? Communism perchance? Actually, not:

Market reforms introduced in North Korea in recent years mean most people only get about half the food they need through the state and have to buy the rest themselves.

But rampant inflation inside North Korea is making it increasingly difficult for people to make up that shortfall.

Japan, the US and South Korea are key contributors to the WFP programme, but Mr Ragan says donations have slowed in the last two years.

Blame capitalism! Capitalist reforms are causing people to starve, and the capitalists are refusing to pick up the tab. The North Korean government should be more communist, in order to feed the people of North Korea properly, and the rest of the world should become more communist, in order to feed the people of North Korea properly.

Well, if the way to get someone to sort this mess out is for them to be allowed to announce that they are rescuing North Korea from the ravages of freedom and the free market, then I say: make the announcement, and get on with it.

22 comments to How capitalism is starving North Korea

  • Only 26% of the land mass of the DPRK is cultivable. The country relied enormously on afrigultural chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers etc., A major supplier was Cib Geigy from “neutral” Switzerland – they had immense problems being paid and eventually gave up supplying in about 1995.

    It was proposed to HMG that for a very modest cost in aid support could be given. It never was.

    It cannot be proven, but I strongly suspect that the subsequent crop failures etc., can be related to this decision to let their agricultural industry suffer.

    Rumsfeld has enjoyed the fact that if you look at the world from space, the balck hole at night is the DPRK. A suitable goolge will show you both the appropriate satellite view and the chuckling Rummy and comments.

    The US view is the starving millions will finally sue for peace – being of course, technically at war.

  • Chet

    What can I say, but Good Friggin Grief!!!

  • One hardly begins to know where to begin with Edward. Perhaps a few questions:

    Was Ciba Geigy wrong to supply the Norks with agricultural chemicals in the first place? Was it wrong to stop when the Norks refused to pay?

    Is it wrong to give aid and support that will enable totalitarian butchers to stay in power? What if said butchers are using the aid to buy time to build nuclear weapons?

    I, too, am pleased that one of the most murderous and deranged regimes on the planet is an economic cripple. Would you prefer the alternative?

  • GCooper

    Perhaps Mr Teague might like to consider how much easier it would have been for the Korean government to build a fertiliser plant, rather than a nuclear reprocessing one?

  • dearieme

    C’mon, chaps, Edward is being ironic.

  • Chris Harper

    Have to disagree with Brian on this. The North Korean people may be the regimes slaves, but they are not the nuclear hostages. Deranged as the system may be, it is unlikely to bomb its own people and production base in order to coerce other governments. The immediate hostages are South Koreans, Japanese and the foreign (US) soldiers on S. Koreas soil.

    And any other US territory or allies its delivery systems can reach.

  • On the subject of North Korea, America invaded Iraq because they *might* be *thinking about starting* a nuclear weapons program. North Korea has nuclear weapons, and yet they are not considered a candidate for Americanisation? Hyprocrisy? No, just cowardice and deceit.

  • Sandy P

    OT:

    Gorgeous George is testifying, via LGF:

    hsgac.senate.gov/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Hearings.Live

    I don’t link well, so good luck!

  • I have visited DPRK and have regular contacts there and with commerical visitors.

    It is inconceivable that they have any nuclear wepons nor a means of delivery – which the US know full well – hence their lack of concern. They may have a capacity to make a marine borne “dirty” bomb, which is used , in say, the Panama Canal would have a massive effect on the US public mood.

    The regime is dreadful – the Pyonyang political and military cadres live modestly comfortably – albeit the largest market that Hennessy have for their vintage brandies. Their major source of income is forging US$’s and Euros and the supply of very high quality heroin.

    Outside the Pattangong Delta the people live in almost stone age squalor (viz TV fillum of rail explosion late last year) , a beggarly existence – curiously the largest groups of N Koreans outisde DPRK are :-

    1. The pachinko parlours in Japan are said to be run entirely by Korean gangsters who support the regime with money sent back “home”.

    2. An extraordinary group re-settled by Stalin in Northern Uzbekistan near the fast disappearing Aral sea, who he removed from the Russian border territories at the end of the Korean war. Craig Murray tells me they live an almost feral existence, despised by evrubody.

    The Dear Leader’s philosophy of “juche” is so much old rope, but the Koreans have enormous self reliance – more so than say the benighted folks labouring under Mugabe.

    Humanity suggests that we support in some way the fate of the 22Mn outside Pyonyang. Surely we cannot consign a slave nation to poverty and starvation for the want of very modest help with their agriculture instead of shuffling off our excess products and stifle local industry as we ( the West / 1st World) are continuing to do in Africa.

    Probably readers have seen Alenka Frankel’s fillum and the recent CH 4 news reports of public executions – pour encourage les autres – are we to sit and chortle and do nothing ?

  • Sandy P

    OT again via Instapundit:

    UNSCAM UPDATE: Loads of stuff over at NewsBeat 1, and Scott Burgess at The Daily Ablution has been Liveblogging the Galloway hearings.

    Latest update: “11:53 – Sen. Coleman is establishing links between Zaraqat and Galloway, which are not being contested.”

    Plus this useful observation:

    There’s a slightly different focus coming from Chairman Coleman and his Democratic counterpart, but it’s clear that they’re on the same page as far as Galloway is concerned. That’s very good to see, in that it undermines George’s ad hominem attacks on the committee members (“a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists under the chairmanship of a neocon George Bush who is pro-war” as today’s Times has him saying). In fact, that characterisation has been completely shot down.

    Stay tuned.

    GG is going against a group which wants as much attention as he.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    On the subject of North Korea, America invaded Iraq because they *might* be *thinking about starting* a nuclear weapons program. North Korea has nuclear weapons, and yet they are not considered a candidate for Americanisation? Hyprocrisy? No, just cowardice and deceit.

    No, it’s more to do with responding to different scenarios with different methods. Many amongst us call this “foreign policy nuance”. I doubt you’re familiar with it if you’re capable of coming out with a half-witted comment like that above. Did you know that the North Koreans have deployed sufficient artillery along the North/South border to flatten Seoul within a matter of hours? Now do you see why no one’s keen (not just the Americans) to start a war on the Korean peninsula?

    Just visited your blog. Word of advice: Stick to your x-Boxes.

  • Edward, the problem is that there is no way to divorce aid to the suffering people of North Korea from support for the odious North Korean regime. You can’t do the one without accomplishing the other.

    Not to mention that past aid packages don’t seem to have made much difference, so you are likely to wind up, as so often happens when aid is sent to kleptocracies, supporting the odious regime without actually helping the suffering masses.

    Look, the North Korean regime isn’t going anywhere as long as the ChiComs want it in place, and won’t last a day after Peking says “adios.” In this circumstance, aid has no political leverage, and serves only subsidize Red China and North Korea, two regimes that we absolutely, positively should not be subsidizing.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    According to Chinese state propaganda, China and North Korea “are as close as lips and teeth”, however this is patently false. In reality, China would love to see the back of the NK regime. What price a quiet life. However, ideology still counts for something in Beijing, which is why they keep supplying NK with energy. A big problem is that the Communists have created a large nationalist rabble. Sometimes useful, however Zhongnanhai has created a loose cannon, which will not take kindly to the impression that its leaders are selling out the people who they’re told have valiantly fought the US imperialists.

    We had a small taste of the mob’s fury during the recent anti-Japan riots. Any painful but necessary concessions/compromises Beijing may have to make in the future (over an issue like Taiwan, or North Korea) will be almost impossible with these explosive, unpredictable hyper-patriots zealously guarding claims on what they consider to be China’s national interests and/or territories. These people could topple the Communists.

  • There are fundamentally 2 solutions to DPRK that are being considered -

    1. Invade and bomb them back into the stone age and start over – The Iraq Option

    2. Ignore them and just hope that somehow, eventually everything will end up alright.

    The US know that the nuclear threat is notional …so they sit back and wait for them to die of starvation and hope eventually a new form of state control arrives.

    Otherwise why the removal of US forces from Korea ? Maybe I’m missing something.

  • dave

    Which option would you prefer?

  • Suffering wrote:

    We had a small taste of the mob’s fury during the recent anti-Japan riots. Any painful but necessary concessions/compromises Beijing may have to make in the future (over an issue like Taiwan, or North Korea) will be almost impossible with these explosive, unpredictable hyper-patriots zealously guarding claims on what they consider to be China’s national interests and/or territories. These people could topple the Communists.

    I have no idea how likely that scenario is, but it’s amusing to contemplate the idea that Chiang Kai-Shek might have the last laugh.

    Edward Teague wrote:

    The US know that the nuclear threat is notional …so they sit back and wait for them to die of starvation and hope eventually a new form of state control arrives.

    Otherwise why the removal of US forces from Korea ? Maybe I’m missing something.

    That didn’t really have anything to do with Korea–it was about freeing up more troops for Iraq. There weren’t enough US troops in Korea to be more than a token before, and there are still enough there for that.

    Any hypothetical US attack on North Korea would most likely take the form of an air attack from carriers and long-range bombers. A ground attack or an attack with other land-based aircraft would require the cooperation of South Korea, Japan, or both, and that’s just not going to happen.

    It occurs to me that the Feds might try ordering the remaining US troops to launch a sneak attack on North Korea, in the hope that the North Koreans would jump to conclusions and attack South Korea before the south could straighten things out. The Feds would have to be pretty desperate for a war, though, because if the trick didn’t work they’d probably end up at war with both Koreas, and get kicked out of Japan to boot.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Ken – Taiwan is a more likely faultline than North Korea, it’s true. However both issues have been made very sensitive for Chinese nationalists. This means sensible, necessary compromises will be all the more difficult to make when dealing with these foreign policy challenges.

    Beijing really should come down a lot harder on North Korea – and it has the capacity to. The last thing China wants is for NK to start a nuclear arms race in the region. Japan could lash together a bomb in a matter of months, and produce them a lot faster (and better) than the Chinese can. Turning off NK’s power would be a good start. However it can’t do that to a brother-in-arms, a long term propaganda job, supposedly China’s closest ally. Lots of Chinese don’t give a shit about politics. But many still do. Passionately.

  • Jim

    “No, just cowardice and deceit.”

    Is anything funnier than some pudgy little civilian pointing out someone else’s cowradice? Hey, David, why don’t you go hang the bell on the cat?

    “Only 26% of the land mass of the DPRK is cultivable. ”

    Here is half the problem. The answer is to remove the artificial division of Korea. The South Koreans would love to do this. At this point if they just unilaterally ignored the border, the regime in the north would probably cave in in under six months.

    Freeing troops up for Iraq was one among several reasons to reduce US troop levels. Another important reason was disgust at subsidizing the defense of a country whose young people say in polls that they despise us (when they are not paying smugglers to sneak them into the US to work in massage parlors giving handjobs.)

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Jim – What do you mean, “just unilaterally ignoring the border”? So a bunch of South Koreans can ignore the border and head over to the North for a picnic? Do you really think this is realistic? If South Korea started “ignoring the border” in a practical manner, there would be war.

    Also, I’m not sure we can expect the regime in NK to implode if prodded a la Soviet Union. I think it’s quite likely that, if toppled by exterior forces in whatever manifestation, Kim Jong Il and his cronies will take an unacceptably high number of people with them.

  • mrdgriff

    George Galloway, Britain’s own Michael Moore, no wonder some in the media love him.

  • TJ

    David wrote…..

    On the subject of North Korea, America invaded Iraq because they *might* be *thinking about starting* a nuclear weapons program. North Korea has nuclear weapons, and yet they are not considered a candidate for Americanisation? Hyprocrisy? No, just cowardice and deceit.

    Your statement carries the entire analysis. Two bad dictators. Two populaces living in fear. One has nuclear weapons; one does not. One is liberated; one remains under the thumb.
    Why?
    Hypocrisy? No. One has nuclear weapons; one does not. Therefore the decision is different.
    Cowardice? No. No one is anxious to go North but if asked the US military certainly would.
    Deciet?! No. Finish this sentance please: We’re not invading North Korea because we are decieving….

    The answer is simply…Paying the price for NK’s freedom (everyone in Seoul for example) is too high and represents too great a risk. It is a failing state with enourmous power to lash out. One waits for the wounded boar to die before getting close and butchering it.

    Wisdom and patience is why North Korea has not been “Americanised.”

  • News Item just in
    “South Korea is to begin shipping 200,000 tonnes of fertiliser to the North on Saturday based on humanitarian concerns, the statement issued in the North Korean city of Kaesong said.”

    This is welcome news.

    I certainly would not support bombing DPRK. I feel that with a sound aid policy they can re-construct their country. Just look at what the other half of the country have down – nes that they have just announced a major breakthrough in stem cell / cloned cell technology. Massive industry, hi-tech leadership in electronics etc etc.,

    One of the biggest holders of DPRK debt is NM Rothschild. ..which they bought I am told at around 7 cents on the $ in the mid 90′s – could be a good investment.

    Who would have imagined where China is today 20 years ago ?

    Softly softly in this case (not in all cases)…