Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Horror that is North Korea

I know that this blog is about Mongolia, but what with the recent Mongolia North Korea detente, I read up on NK a bit. I always knew things were horrific there on account of the criminal malfeasance of the brutal and maniacal--nearly subhuman--communist regime there. But an article I found at the LA Times (registration required) via North Korea Zone brings it home all the more. It's about the North Korean city of Chongjin, a city the size of Boston in terms of population. Read it, and allow your heart to weep with the North Koreans.
Most of the factories in Chongjin, a former industrial port, are rusting into ruin. Those still operating can barely pay salaries; the average worker's wage amounts to $1 per month at current exchange rates.

Even with international aid, many people go to bed wondering whether they will eat the next day. Residents, along with officials of the United Nations World Food Program, say food shortages have grown worse again in the last year.

"Maybe people are not dying today out in the streets like they were before," [a reference to the famine in the mid-nineties when approximately 2,000,000 men, women, and children perished] said a coal miner who lives in Chongjin, "but they are still dying — just quietly in their homes."

The prolonged hardship has left North Koreans increasingly disillusioned with leader Kim Jong Il and the ideology of national self-reliance that once held the nation together. People say the regime has less and less control.

With corruption running rampant, the state is no longer solely in charge of commerce. People hustle to sell anything they can — prohibited videos of South Korean soap operas, real estate and official travel documents. In this free-for-all, some people have prospered. Many more are just a step ahead of starvation.
For years, one of the hallmarks of North Korea's government was its public distribution system, which doled out food and other goods to citizens nearly for free. The regime considered coal mining a strategic occupation, and miners were given extra rations.

But in the early 1990s, the lights in the mines went out, as did the pumps that kept the shafts dry. Beams rotted and equipment corroded. As the mines ceased production, the rations stopped.

The children were the first to start dying, then the elderly. Next to perish were men, who seemed to need more calories to survive than women.

Chongjin residents learned to recognize the stages of starvation.

First, the victims become listless and too weak to work. Their vision grows blurry. They become bone-thin, then startlingly, their torsos bloat.

Toward the end, they just lie still, sometimes hallucinating about food.

While some people seem to fade away, others die in agony, their intestines blocked when they can't digest substitute foods, such as corn powder and oak leaves. Particularly lethal to children's digestive systems are ersatz rice cakes — molded out of a paste made from the inner bark of pine trees.

Among the victims was the miner's 60-year-old father, an otherwise strong and robust man who had never been ill as long as he could remember. The miner's best friend, a co-worker and childhood buddy, dragged himself out to the mountains to look for food and never returned.
This is atrocity beyond imagination. Sorry to be coarse, but stray dogs in third-world shanty towns have a better quality of life than most North Korean humans. I now put the dictatorial Kim family right up their with Hitler and Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. This article did it for me. I can't believe, but I can believe, how this kind of pure evil exists on the earth. For the life of me, I do not know how people can fail to believe that the North Korean regime is a member of the Axis of Evil. If it's not evil, nothing is evil. And something--perhaps something extreme--must be done. People are dying as the world's diplomats are limosined to and from luxury hotels to wrinkle their foreheads over foie gras and bubbly about how to pacify Kim Jung-il. For crying out loud, this cries out to heaven. People are dying by the million. Think what you will of me, but if ever a war of liberation were called for, this is the place, these are the people.


Anonymous yan said...

My uncle went to North Korea with a tourist group some time ago. He said as a tourist it was just like the media tell you - no contact to the locals, always two overseers around etc.
Another member of his group wrote an article praising how well children can develope in a socialist society though . I had always thought such language had died out with the end of the GDR. One can just hope he was trying to be friendly towards his hosts.

An aquaintance of my father said she went to North Korea in 1988 or 1989, again, with a tourist group. She had worked in a textile factory and made friends with some North Korean contract workers. They had to leave East Germany in 1987 or 1988 "to see the Olympic buildings", and they really did return home, even though it was completely clear (to their German colleagues, at least) that the Koreans were lied at.

It's funny to compare pre-1990 pictures of Ulaanbaatar with current pictures of Pyongyang, though.

7/11/2005 2:56 AM  
Anonymous paul said...


While the world watches, a leader spends what little wealth his country has on nuclear weapons and a fearsome army, allowing his civilians to "live" brutal, pitiful lives.

Isolationists should read this and be ashamed to look their families in the eyes.

7/12/2005 8:04 AM  
Anonymous paul said...

Just linked your post. Also put up an interesting satelite picture of North Korea at night.

This subject is just infuriating to me.

By the way, I was aware of the Mongolia detente connection (from an NPR story) and my initial thoughts were positive. But, it seems that its more likely that NK will use Mongolia to gain legitimacy rather than as an advisor to institute reforms. Leopard's spots and all that. NK is a failed state, and they are only looking for their own (leaders/and or army) survival as such.

7/12/2005 9:52 AM  
Blogger Sarnai Gantumur said...

Hi all,Good information on North Korea. Also try to watch " Inside north Korea" by History Channel. It was absolutely an eye opener for me. I borrowed it from LA public library. That was worth to watch.

5/28/2006 4:34 AM  
Blogger samraat said...

4/04/2010 10:42 PM  

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