Weeks before North Korea’s latest nuclear test, it was clear that the political climate surrounding North Korea policy was ready for a big shift away from honor-system diplomacy and toward tougher sanctions. This test is likely to mean a major legislative push here in Washington — not just to punish North Korea, but to craft and enact sanctions that attack the regime’s structural weaknesses, with the intent of either coercing its disarmament or destroying it. For all the tension that will prompt in the short term, it is the only plausible non-military path to a long-term solution.
Republicans in Congress will start by pushing to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Opponents of such a move are fond of arguing that this would be be motivated by factors unrelated to terrorism, but those people either don’t know the facts or are hiding them. It was the Bush Administration that de-listed North Korea for political reasons, in spite of North Korea’s refusal to acknowledge, end, or renounce its past and ongoing terrorism. Opponents of re-listing North Korea should read the legal definition of “international terrorism” at 18 U.S.C. 2331, and then explain why the abduction and murder of the activist and rescuer, the Rev. Kim Dong Shik, doesn’t count. Or the attempted assassination of defector-dissident Park Sang-Hak. Or the attempted assassination of defector-dissident Hwang Jang-Yop. Or all of those other poison needle assassination attempts against human rights activists North Korea’s agents were behind, whether in China or South Korea. Or its calls for its supporters to slit Lee Myung Bak’s throat, or its threat to shell the Blue House. Or its threat to shell the offices of newspapers that criticize the regime. I could go on, and on. North Korea has never sponsored more terrorism in its dreadful history than in the period since George W. Bush removed it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008.
This is only a start. I also expect to see a much broader, more comprehensive sanctions effort aimed at North Korea’s proliferation and money laundering, certainly in Congress and perhaps Read more
The most superficial things you’ve probably heard about Kim Jong Un are the closely related ideas that he is, or must be, a latent reformer because he (a) appreciates aspects of Western culture, (b) has a fashionable wife, and (c) had a Swiss education. As examples, I’ll cite this report by Jean Lee, this and this from Joohee Cho of ABC, and this exercise in straw-grasping by John DeLury. The problem with this theory is that it isn’t supported by any evidence that the regime has become less brutal, menacing, controlling, or confiscatory in the last year.
Leave aside the foundational question of whether Kim Jong Un is more than a figurehead, an assumption I am underprepared to accept. During his schooling abroad, he didn’t exhibit many signs of intellectual curiosity, enlightenment, or strength of character. Even the word “education” is a stretch; Jong Un didn’t graduate from his expensive foreign school.
Historically, the exposure of dictators’ sons to foreign culture has not moderated them; it was just another place for them to be everything they were at home except above the law and shielded from our sight. Because little tyrants eventually become big tyrants, what they became was self-indulgent, impulsive sociopaths. Nicu Ceausescu, Uday Hussein, and Hannibal Qaddafi never lacked for access to Europe’s fleshpots. Nicu and Uday (both of whom were serial rapists at home) are rumored to have palled around together in Switzerland, and both Uday and Hannibal share the distinction of being expelled from it for violent assaults (so enraging the elder Qaddafi that he demanded that the entire country of Switzerland be abolished; Hannibal later got in trouble in Denmark and the U.K. for other assaults). Like his peers before him, Kim Jong Un was privileged enough to be whisked off to a bacchanalian playground. Unlike his peers, he spent his time there torturing animals and masturbating to bondage porn alone in his room. But he loves Disney characters! Yes, and so did Hitler. It’s at least as plausible to theorize that Jong Un combines the self-restraint of Nicu and Uday with the poisonous inadequacy of Goebbels and Hitler.
I’ve already drawn the comparison between how Lee and Cho covered Ri Sol Ju’s fashions to how Vogue covered Asma Assad’s. This shouldn’t really surprise us. Don’t the first ladies of most impoverished banana republics love high fashion? I’ll say this much for Asma — the long list of her husband’s crimes doesn’t include starving his people while telling the world he can’t afford corn.
We know very little about Kim Jong Un’s personality; in fact, we don’t even know how important it is to know about it. All we can judge is the regime’s performance on matters of substance since his coronation. Maybe one day, the regime will make some pragmatic or humane reforms, although there’s scant evidence for that now. Last fall, for example, there was a lot of excitement outside North Korea when the regime announced agricultural reforms that would have allowed collectives to keep more of their crops. Never mind that the move was accompanied by the seizure of privately cultivated land, which had become a major source of food and income for less-privileged North Koreans. The reforms were quickly forgotten as the harvest came in.
Politically, the regime has cracked down on information flows and defections. The area around Camp 22 is a particular target for warnings to citizens against telling what they’ve witnessed inside North Korea. Judging by new statistics from South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, the crackdown is working.
Although the crackdown began during Kim Jong Il’s rule, it has been redoubled since his death.
Under North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, human rights activists and South Korean officials say, it has become increasingly difficult to smuggle refugees out of the country, contributing to a sharp drop in the number of North Koreans reaching South Korea in the past year. [NYT]
Notwithstanding the explanation by the Times that this decline is the result of a crackdown, it’s appropriate to ask ourselves if there might be other reasons for this decreased flow. Foreign observers are seeing more cars, cell phones, and luxury goods in the elite reservation of Pyongyang, but are most North Koreans better off now than they were in 2009? The answer is probably not. North Korea’s economic recovery from the Great Famine of 1993 to 2000 appears to have peaked around 2005, when it was reversed by a series of confiscatory measures. As recently as last year, there were reports of microfamines in Hwanghae, the rice bowl of North Korea, as a direct consequence of crop seizures. Unfortunately for the people of Hwanghae, it is all but impossible for most of them to make it all the way across North Korea to the Chinese border, to say nothing of crossing the border and evading Chinese police. (I suppose these things are especially hard to do while starving.)
The decline in refugee flows also coincides with the disastrous December 2009 currencyrevaluation that I like to call The Great Confiscation. This action not only caused tremendous financial hardship for many North Koreans, it did lasting damage to North Korea’s black-market economy and unprecedented publicdisturbances, even resulting in an apology by North Korea’s third-highest official and, so it is rumored, the execution of at least one scapegoat. I’ve stopped hearing reports that the regime is closing down markets or banning the sale of foreign goods, as it had been in 2009, but the existence of these markets, on which most North Koreans depend for their survival, remains tenuous.
In other words, economic conditions in North Korea probably got worse for most North Koreans during the period between 2008 and 2011 (I don’t have enough information to extend that trend through 2012). North Korea looks like an even more miserable place when compared to South Korea’s rapid GDP growth:
The Wall Street Journal‘s Kwanwoo Jun Evan Ramstad actually asked the question of whether improved economic conditions might explain the drop in defections. He gets an answer, and two more plausible explanations:
Few in Seoul see the latest data as a sign of North Korea turning into a better place to live in under Kim Jong Eun, the new leader who took power after his father Kim Jong Il died in late December 2011.
“That falling number doesn’t mean that economic conditions are getting better in North Korea,” said Kim Yong-hyun, professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University. “A number of people, who could no longer bear the hardship up in the North, have already fled the country, and those who have stayed behind are probably immune to the difficulties or able to find a way to survive the ordeal.” [Korea Real Time]
Ramstad also points to China’s crackdown on the other side of the border, and notes that North Koreans who had intended to defect to South Korea (or perhaps return with money or goods to North Korea) may be stranded in China.
One dynamic that intrigues me is the tendency of defections to ventilate political pressures by allowing the most discontented and ambitious dissenters to escape. Now that only the very rich can hope to escape North Korea, what alternative stands between the discontented and lives lived in misery?
Correction: I mistakenly attributed the Korea Real Time post to Evan Ramstad. I apologize for the error.
As a vibrant market economy arises from an underdeveloped one, it does not lift all boats as a rising tide would. Some get very rich fast, and some stay very poor. Such periods of rapid development are politically risky times, as uneducated masses are drawn away from their hardscrabble farm lives and packed into factory dormitories, slums, and shanty towns in the cities. Those places become hothouses of envy and radicalism that can bring down the political systems in which wealth and poverty coexist uneasily. It’s no coincidence that Marxist ideas rose as societies industrialized, and waned as most of the world entered a post-industrial phase. Marxism is an ideology built around an emotion — envy. To survive the political turbulence of industrialization, a strong state must have the means and the will to suppress lawlessness, but it must also inspire enough faith in The System that the masses harbor real hope that their lives will continue to improve under it.
On the surface, the coexistence of wealth and poverty in North Korea can resemble what we see in developing societies. But in what sense can it be said that North Korea, a place where the government wraps an iron fist around most commerce and predetermines the potential of its citizens before they’re even born, is “developing?” Are we really seeing the rise of a capitalist class in Pyongyang, or is the same old elite-class hoarding just becoming more ostentatious? The great irony of North Korea is that its most destabilizing force today is the same kind of class envy that propelled most of the Marxist revolutions of the last century. Two excellent news stories this week contrast the superficial trappings of wealth in Pyongyang with an exacerbation of poverty and continued starvation everywhere else. While the elite in Pyongyang have never had it so good, children continue to starve and die in the markets of other North Korean cities.
Food prices have spiked, the result of drought and North Korea’s defiant launching of a rocket in April that shut down new offers of food aid from the United States. Development organizations also blame speculators who have hoarded staples in anticipation of reforms that have yet to materialize. The price of rice has doubled since early summer, and chronic shortages of fuel, electricity and raw materials continue to idle most factories, leaving millions unemployed.
“People were hopeful that Kim Jong-un would make our lives better, but so far they are disappointed,” said a 50-year-old named Mrs. Park, who like Mrs. Kim spoke on the condition that only her last name be used, fearing retribution when she returned home.
A member of the ruling Workers’ Party from a major city, Mrs. Park said that to feed her family, she sells cornmeal cakes from a market stall, but she complained of sluggish sales and famished children who snatch her wares from beneath a protective swatch of fabric. More than once this year, she said she walked by the lifeless bodies of those who were too weak to steal.
This is some of the best journalism the Times has produced about North Korea in my memory. I hope we’ll see more of Mr. Jacobs’s work. Another giant, Barbara Demick, writes:
Women wearing fancy shoes, miniskirts and trousers, fashions popularized by the chic wife of North Korea’s not-yet 30-year-old leader. Brand new high-rise apartment buildings, which she’s heard have washing machines and refrigerators. People walking down the street yammering into cellphones stuck to their ears.
All things that, for now, at least, seem beyond the reach of the 52-year-old Kim, who, although she counts herself among the privileged as a resident of the North Korean capital, can barely afford to eat rice.
“Of course, they’re showing off with their cellphones. Who wouldn’t?” she snapped.
“There is more construction, more people building things, more to buy in Pyongyang. But day to day, our life is actually harder,” said Kim, who like many North Koreans working outside the country uses a pseudonym.
“Maybe 1 out of 10,000 North Koreans can afford to eat white rice every day like the people in China,” said a 58-year-old man from Suncheon, 30 miles north of Pyongyang, who has been working in a brick factory in China.
At North Korea’s state-owned factories, wages are so low (often less than $1 per month) that people will pay for the privilege of not showing up to work. They use their time instead to collect firewood or edible greens or to trade something on the market.
As for the vaunted North Korean military, rank-and-file soldiers have so little to eat that their parents have to send money and food for them to survive. Cornfields have to be guarded 24 hours a day to prevent thievery, with many of the culprits being hungry soldiers. [L.A. Times, Barbara Demick]
Separately, otherreports are claiming that North Korea’s food situation is as bad as it’s been at any time since the Great Famine. I’m a committed agnostic about any statement that claims to represent the true food situation in North Korea, given the restrictions on access to reliable data and the substantial variations that probably exist from region to region. It’s clear, however, that North Koreans don’t think their lives have improved during the centenary of Kim Il Sung’s birth or since the coronation of Kim Jong Un. The perception of declining living standards is bad news for any ruling regime, but it’s fatal when it’s so easily contrasted to the rising and conspicuous wealth of a privileged few. As a consequence, class envy in North Korea is almost certainly both deep and wide, and it’s turning North Korea into a Brechtian dystopia where the masses live by the laws of Erst kommt das Fressen and Der Mensch lebt durch den Kopf.
Hat tips to several readers.
UPDATE: But then, the Kim Dynasty has become less Marxist with each generation, and more an expression of Emmanuel Goldstein’s oligarchical collectivism (I’m not the first one to be astonished by how much Goldstein’s criticism of Oceania sounds exactly like North Korea, but don’t take my word for it). That’s why it shouldn’t surprise us that even the statues portraits of Marx and Lenin have been removed from Kim Il Sung Square.
We don’t know how extensive North Korea’s agricultural reforms are meant to be, but we do know that North Korea wants us to think that it’s instituting big reforms in its agricultural sector, because it took the AP’s Jean Lee on a show tour of a collective where the “farmers” were primed to tell her it was so. Is it too cynical of me to tend to disbelieve any fact that North Korea wants me to believe is true? Props to Lee for her hard work at getting this sentence past her “colleagues” at KCNA:
North Korea has a per capita GDP of $1,800 per year, according to the U.S. State Department, far below that of its neighbors in Northeast Asia, and its rocky, mountainous terrain and history of natural disasters has long challenged the Kim regime to provide enough food.
Yes, that is all! Nineteen consecutive years of drought-slash-flood that for some reason target all parts of North Korea, exclusively, but which never seem to impede the flow of rice or Omega watches to Pyongyang! I love officially approved news, don’t you?
Meanwhile, we are reminded again why we ought to be skeptical of all that optimistic speculation, like this example from The New York Times. And then, a day later, Yonhap reports, “North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament closed its session Tuesday, the country’s state media announced without making reference to economic reforms widely expected to come from the unexpected meeting of legislators.” So there’s that. Not that there’s a particularly strong causal link between legislation and policy in North Korea, but given how rare it is for North Korea to put on this puppet show twice in a year, does the absence of any major legislative initiatives suggest that some of the strings have become tangled?
Meanwhile, on the more tangible side of North Korean economic policy, fewer things have changed than some would have us think:
After nearly two years of interrogations while imprisoned in the inhumane Yodok camp, also called simply “No. 15,” Jang became aware he was there because he had earned so much foreign currency, the defector recalled in a meeting in Seoul of North Korean survivors of the country’s political prison camps.
Jang said hundreds of other hard-working foreign-currency earners were sent to the political prison for the same reason.
While North Korean authorities assigned an annual foreign currency target of more than US$1 million to each foreign income unit, completing the assignment drew suspicion from the government because they assumed that achieving the ambitious goal must involve irregularities, Jang explained in a package of written recollections released at the meeting. [Korea Times]
Lest you wonder if I’m the only one asking for stronger evidence to support this wildly optimistic speculation, there more here, from Luke Herman.
North Korea’s KCNA state media said Kim was accompanied by his new wife, Ri Sol-ju, and that the exercise centre had been “built according to the direct initiative and plan” of the Young General, as he is known. It added that Kim is “always deeply concerned for the promotion of people’s health and living standards.”
So concerned that he blew enough rice money to feed a small town for a year on a new gym that no one in North Korea but him needs, in the middle of its 18th annual food crisis since his grandpa became North Korea’s largest stockpile of preserved meat.
Kim told the staff that if office workers who work indoors all day, “take exercise and receive medical treatment at the centre, they can devote themselves to revolutionary work in good health.” - The Telegraph, Julian Riall
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be one of the gym staff members, being lectured on fitness and exercise by a morbidly obese man … who showed up in a Mao suit? Suppress your amusement, comrade. Think of your children.
And of course you’re right. This really isn’t funny at all.
Forgive me. If I didn’t laugh, I’d be too depressed to write this and you’d be too depressed to read it. I wonder how many people living outside Pyongyang will ever see that picture.
The songbun system in some ways resembles the apartheid race-based classification system of South Africa. Songbun subdivides the population of the country into 51 categories or ranks of trustworthiness and loyalty to the Kim family and North Korean state. These many categories are grouped into three broad castes: the core, wavering, and hostile classes. Kim Il-sung gave a public speech in 1958 in which he reported that the core class represented 25%, wavering class 55%, and hostile class 20% of the population.
These three classes may have affected how families fared during the Great Famine of the 1990s, which Hwang Jang-yop—the regime’s chief party ideologue who defected to South Korea in 1997— estimated may have killed 3.5 million North Koreans. In mid-1998 the World Food Program, UNICEF, Save the Children, and the European Union conducted the first country-wide survey of the nutritional condition of North Korean children. They reported that 32% of the children showed no evidence of malnutrition, 62% suffered from moderate malnutrition, and 16% suffered from severe acute malnutrition, with an error rate of 5%. While the survey had its limitations because of restrictions placed on the effort by the North Korean state, it is noteworthy that the size of the three social classes is about the same as the size of the nutritional categories. If the regime was feeding people through the public distribution system based on their songbun classification, it would be reflected in the nutritional data; and the data does show considerable coincidence. In the context of the famine, songbun may have determined who lived and who died, who ate well and who starved, and whose children suffered permanent physical (through stunting) and intellectual damage (prolonged acute malnutrition lowers IQ levels) from acute severe malnutrition. We have some evidence that the songbun system determined ration levels in the public distribution system which fed the country from the founding of the North Korean state until the deterioration of the system during the famine and its ultimate collapse.
What is most remarkable about the songbun system is how long it has been in existence with so little outside scrutiny focused on it. One of the Board members of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Helen-Louise Hunter, is one of the first western scholars to write extensively on the subject in her book published in 1998, Kim Il Song’s North Korea. Her book is based on classified research she had done for U.S. intelligence agencies, which was later declassified so it could be published. The failure of the human rights community, the United Nations agencies, and outside scholars of North Korea may be attributed to the closed nature of the North Korean system, but it may also be a result of a reluctance to believe earlier anecdotal reports of how repressive this system was. Some non-governmental organizations and aid workers early in the outside world’s understanding of the famine thought that the North Korean food distribution system was a socially equitable means of reducing famine deaths by distributing food equally for everyone. No one reading this report on the songbun system could reach any such misguided conclusion today on the nature of the North Korean regime, its use of songbun as a means for its own survival, and its ongoing systematic punishment of those who are at the bottom of the stratified system.
As recently as this week, there is fresh evidence that North Korea’s current outbreak of microfamines is not the result of thirty consecutive years of droughts or floods, but the result of how the regime seizes, allocates, and selectively denies food. The regime blames it on a drought this year, and on a flood last year, but the regime knows why its people are really starving:
The Workers’ Party of Korea compiled an internal report in mid-March acknowledging that the starvation of massive number of people in North Korea’s south in January and February was a human-made disaster, it has been learned.
The report specifically attributed the starvation to the excessive supply of food to the military despite a serious shortage of food due to a flood last summer, said North Korean sources involved in trade. The report has been viewed as a sign of commitment by the regime of new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to squarely face the country’s problems.
A large number of workers at collective farms in three districts of South Hwanghae Province as well as part of North Hwanghae Province starved to death along with their families in early 2012, according to the sources. The Workers’ Party of Korea compiled a report on the matter in mid-March, mentioning a serious food shortage in these areas.
“South Hwanghae Province fell into difficulty as a result of a flood,” the party report reads. “In particular, a large number of farmers and their families suffered from a shortage of food.” It then points out, “Farming households suffered because they had to secure rice for the military.”
Although rainfall in South Hwanghae Province has been lower than usual this year, it’s inconclusive that this has actually affected food production. Am I the only person to wonder why all of those droughts and floods never cause famines in South Korea?
The Daily NK asks, fittingly, how there can be famine in the “breadbasket” — the rice bowl — of North Korea today, and adds that the reports of starvation are not easily attributed to natural causes.
To North Korean defectors, it is clear that the civilian starvation is a direct result of the decision to prioritize the military under the military-first policy and the subsequent obligation on the part of cooperative farms to provide rice for soldiers, coupled to controls covering trading activities by farm employees.
34-year old Lee Mi Kyung, who defected in 2011 from South Hwanghae Province, explained to Daily NK, “If everything grown did not go to military rice stores, then nobody would die. When I was in North Korea, because everything went for military rice there was nothing to eat in the farming season so we couldn’t work properly.”
“When autumn harvest time comes, soldiers guard the threshing shed and take all the grain that comes through it,” she went on. “If that proves not to be enough, then they also take privately farmed cereals into state stores in the name of military stocks.” [....]
According to defector Cha Young Ho (50), this is clearly a rural problem. He said, “People in the cities can trade, so there haven’t been many starvation deaths since the end of the March of Tribulation. But since last summer it started getting so bad that people have been collapsing in the fields for lack of food.” [Daily NK]
Spring and early summer are traditionally the hungriest parts of the year for North Koreans. Remember, most of the crop seizures precipitating this famine — it may well be something more like a cluster of microfamines — would have happened last fall. Meanwhile, the Rodong Sinmun is printing pictures of “active and seemingly successful rice planting going on in the region surrounding the North Korean capital.”
[Guard tower in a North Korean cornfield]
Having read too much of the terrible history of the last century, I am struck again by North Korea choosesto reenact the horrors of Mauthausen, and now, chooses to reenact Stalin’s Holodomor of the 1930s.
I suppose history is not just an endless loop of brutality and stupidity, but there are moments when that aspect eclipses all others. Then, as now, there are apologists and deniers, but if we’re looking for comfort in signs of progress, at least Stalin’s apologists were more talented. Stalin had Walter Duranty, but Jean Lee and David Guttenfelder don’t dare to cross the line into affirmative denial, and they must answer to their critics. Stalin had Anna Louise Strong and George Bernard Shaw; Kim Jong Un must settle for the otherwise talentless Christine Ahn. If there is anything hopeful to be taken from this, it is how new technologies have put capabilities like Google Earth and global publishing in the hands of nobodies working from their living rooms after work. The Internet has given lies instant global reach, but it has also given the truth something it didn’t have in 1932 — a fighting chance at catching up. Just imagine the impact of putting that technology into the hands of the North Korean people themselves.
When North Korea tried and failed to launch its Unha-3 rocket this year, it not only chose that launch instead of a big shipment of American food aid as the price of keeping quiet until November, it also lost the six-month supply of grain it could have bought with the money it cost to build the damn thing to begin with. But it’s good to see that those choices haven’t cramped the lifestyles of any North Koreans fortunate enough to live within range of an Associated Press camera:
Ten thousand rolls of tobacco, 12 bottles of Sake, and a handful of second-hand Mercedes-Benz cars are among the latest reported breaches by North Korea of a U.N. ban on luxury goods sales to the reclusive state, according to a confidential draft U.N. report.
Japan told a U.N. panel of experts that Pyongyang also imported thousands of computers and thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics and that almost all the goods were shipped through China, it was reported in the draft seen by Reuters on Thursday.
The five North Korean violations reported to the panel by Japan during the past year took place between 2008 and 2010. [Reuters]
China voted for U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, which prohibit North Korea from importing luxury goods. Discuss among yourselves.
Here at OFK, we always try to present a balanced perspective, so I’ll just let you watch as much of this as you can endure.
My first reaction to these reports years ago was skepticism, but if you hear enough people say the same thing (see here and here), you start to think they can’t all be lying:
North Korea has held public executions of at least three people on charges of cannibalism in recent years, a South Korean state-run institute said Thursday, the latest development that could support what has long been rumored in the isolated country.
There have been accounts among North Korean defectors in the South that some North Koreans ate and sold human flesh during the massive famine in the late 1990s that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.
A North Korean man in the northeastern city of Hyesan was executed in December 2009 for killing a preteen girl and eating her flesh, the Korea Institute for National Unification said in a white paper on human rights in North Korea, which is set to be released next week.
The man committed the crime because of a lack of food following Pyongyang’s botched currency reform in late 2009 that caused massive inflation and worsened food shortages, the white paper said, citing an interview with an unidentified defector in June last year. [Yonhap]
More here. Apparently, not everyone in North Korea gets invited to the supermarkets and picnics that the AP has been photographing in Pyongyang.
I feel sorry for the less fortunate people who live in places without their own memorandum of understanding with the AP. For example, according to this report, 20,000 people have died of starvation since last December in a place called South Hwanghae Province. That seems like an awfully high number. If only there were, you know, some professional journalists somewhere in the vicinity with enough curiosity to ask to go there and seek out the truth. If only this were happening in North Korea, where the AP correspondent, Jean H. Lee, says her hosts have never refused to let her cover a story. Because if there were reports of mass casualty famine in a nearby province in North Korea, heck, it could only mean that Lee didn’t care enough to ask.
Yet somehow, other news organizations continue to find ways to bring us lurid stories like this one:
David Austin is one of the few outsiders who has seen firsthand how people live in the North Korean countryside, and he describes a population “lethargic” from malnutrition. Just two weeks ago, he visited an orphanage as part of his work as the North Korea program director for the relief organization Mercy Corps. He said the last protein children had eaten was in January — eggs.
“That tells us not only are they not getting a balanced diet but in terms of the rations, they’re getting only about 60% of what a child needs,” he said. Austin describes widespread severe malnourishment and “an entire generation” that is “stunted physically, developmentally because of chronic malnutrition.” [CNN, April 12, 2012]
Then again, now that three AP photographers are Pulitzer finalists “for their extraordinary portrayal of daily life inside the reclusive nation of North Korea,” our historical analogy is only one “AP exclusive” regime-guided tour away from perfection.
If a country can’t grow its own food, that can only mean that it’s America’s obligation to give them enough money to buy some. Oh, right. Nope, no human rights violation to see there.