OUR FIFTEEN SECONDS: I’m extremely pleased to see reader and friend CPT Jon Stafford getting great circulation for his must-read article, “Finding America’s Role in a Collapsed North Korean State.” Richardson had previously linked to a video discussion between the online editors of The Weekly Standard and Foreign Policy that scratched the surface of the problem, just. Today, Bradley Martin, author of “Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader” has an article discussing it in somewhat greater depth at Bloomberg news. This humble blog, specifically this comment by Prof. Andrei Lankov (book review here; interview here), also got a nice little plug.
FEEDING HAND, UNBITTEN: North Korea has released Canadian pastor Kim Je-Yell, whom they had jailed in the miserable and remote northeastern city of Chongjin:
Kim had been bringing dental supplies and setting up clinics in northeastern North Korea for nearly a decade with official approval, the report said. The AFP]said Kim had written in a statement during an interrogation that he had criticised the North Korean regime and tried to establish a church in the North. [
THE LAST WORD — HELL IN HAMHUNG: Now and then, I see something that’s not new, but which is too interesting not to mention. This time, Jack at DPRK Forum links to this 1997 article by the Washington Post. There are other good links at Jack’s post, including recent news that eight people, including a member of the North Korean parliament, were executed publicly. I’ll direct you there for those rather than hork all of his links. This one, however, was too good to pass up:
The orphanage is divided into several small rooms, with playpens for the smallest infants. Almost all the children are malnourished, with browning hair, bald patches on their scalps and sores on their heads and faces. The most severely malnourished are listless and unresponsive.
There are 198 children under age 4 at the orphanage, and about 20 percent are expected to die because they arrived too late to be helped. About 70 percent of the children here were orphaned when their parents died of malnutrition or disease, Choi said. The other 30 percent simply were abandoned and left for dead by parents too poor and too hungry to feed them.
“Some parents just put them outside on the street and leave them to nature,” Choi said. “Sometimes people pick them up and bring them here.” And other times? “They just die.” The orphanage is surrounded by high hills covered with graves and stone markers. It is an old burial ground, she said. But there are also many new graves.
The scenes of deprivation and hardship go on and on. There is a massive 1950s-era hotel in the town, but it is cold and apparently empty. Since power is rationed, the electricity has been turned off. There are factories here, but they stand idle. No smoke comes from the chimneys; there is no activity inside the gates. Outside, people mill around, apparently with little to do. Nearly everyone here — hospital workers, hotel employees, even the official government guides — talked openly about the fuel shortage and lack of electricity. [WaPo, Keith B. Richburg, Oct. 19, 1997]
Hideous. Further down, much baseless hope was then (as now) placed in the idea that Kim Jong Il might reform to spare his people such misery. Baseless — except for the regime’s williness to accept micro-credit from the UN Development Program. By now, we know how that worked out.
One of the most interesting take-aways from Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard’s book, “Famine in North Korea” (my review: part 1; part 2; their response) was that the famine in South Hamgeyong — Hungnam and Hamhung — may have been even worse than the terrible events in North Hamgyeong, which were brought to our eyes by refugees within fleeing distance of China. A nearly 2,000 refugees by Yoonok Chang actually found that although few refugees from South Hamgyeong made it to China, the consensus among refugees was that conditions there were worse than the border regions where most of the refugees surveyed were from. This is just one of the reasons why some estimates may actually understate the Great Famine’s death toll.
[Update: I corrected the title of Martin’s book.]