Italian customs recently confiscated 420 bottles of expensive liquor on their way to North Korea. Italian newspaper Vivere Ancona said customs in the eastern port city seized 150 bottles of brandy and 270 bottles of whisky in containers destined for North Korea at the end of last month.
The confiscation follows a UN Security Council ban on the export of arms, high technology and luxury goods to North Korea after the communist country’s nuclear test in May. The liquor is reportedly worth 12,000 euro, but the brands were not identified. [Chosun Ilbo]
Like I said before … in a just world, people who support the right of a “government” to squander a nation’s resources while makeshift cemeteries surround and swallow its cities should be caged and poked with sharp sticks.
Update: Meanwhile, the proles get by however they can. A must-read report from Canada’s Globe and Mail suggests that North Korea is again on the brink of famine:
In a country where citizens are subjected to ceaseless propaganda telling them that they live in a socialist paradise, it’s the silence that tells the other side of the story.
You can stand in the middle of some Pyongyang streets, even at rush hour, and hear only the occasional sound of an automobile engine because private cars are so rare. The quiet lingers, too, in the so-called industrial towns, their skylines dominated by smokestacks that never seem to be in use.
The silence is the sound of an economy in collapse, and nowhere is it more noticeable than in the countryside beyond the showcase capital city. Here, farmers tend their crops with hoes, shovels and their bare hands while the occasional piece of rusting farm equipment – rendered useless by a fuel shortage – sits idle amid the vast fields of rice and corn.
Despite having more arable land per capita than the United Kingdom or Belgium, North Korea is chronically, desperately short of food, and spiralling downward into its worst crisis in a decade.
The United Nations says some 8.7 million North Koreans – more than one third of the population of 23 million – are in need of food aid, marking the country’s worst food crisis since a famine in the late 1990s that by some estimates claimed the lives of three million people.
Almost three-quarters of North Korean households have reduced their food intake, and malnutrition among children under the age of 5 has risen dramatically, a result of diarrhea caused by eating food scrounged from the wild.
What strikes you is how much trouble North Korea goes to to ensure that everyone lives in this kind of misery. Only governments that agree to enrich Kim Jong Il and perpetuate his misrule are granted the privilege of giving food aid, some of which might just get though to the people who really need it:
The crisis has been exacerbated by Pyongyang’s refusal since March to accept food aid provided by the United States, which previously had been the biggest donor to the WFP effort. Aid from South Korea – which included food and fertilizer and accounted for 5 per cent of the North’s gross domestic product – has also been suspended since last year’s election of President Lee Myung-bak, who unlike his predecessors tied such help to North Korea taking steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
When the WFP launched its humanitarian appeal last year, it was to have been the largest such program in the world in terms of the number of people it helped. Now aid will get only to the most vulnerable groups: children, pregnant and nursing women, and the elderly. Since January, the program has been scaled down to just over 10 per cent of the target capacity, with the WFP slashing staff and closing three of its six offices around the country. Meanwhile, the WFP estimates that North Korea will see a shortfall of 83,000 tonnes of rice following the November harvest.
While the Pyongyang regime regularly tells its citizens that the United States – bent on breaking the world’s last truly Communist state – is to blame for the economic woes, the WFP says it has received no aid since Kim Jong-il’s regime carried out a widely condemned nuclear test, as well as a series of provocative rocket launches, earlier this year. [Globe and Mail]
It’s as if Kim Jong Il doesn’t want these people to eat.
That G&M piece is a must read.