Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Stark Reality

This picture truly tells a story. It’s a satellite photograph of the Korean Peninsula at night. The border between North and South is visible, but you don’t need it to differentiate the two nations.

The south is lit up because it’s a very prosperous and successful, capitalist regime. In fact, South Korea’s economy hit the trillion dollar mark in 2004.

The stark reality of North Korea’s economic failure is demonstrated by it’s darkness at night.

Recently on the Tonight Show, in his monologue, Jay Leno joked that electrical power is shut down in North Korea at 9:00 p.m. I don’t know if this is a true statement, but the picture above makes the joke sound like fact.

North Korea is slightly smaller than the American State of Mississippi, and has a population of slightly more than 23 million people. It borders China, South Korea, and Russia. North Korea has natural resources such as coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, hydropower, and nuclear power.

Some of the environmental challenges that the North faces are; water pollution, inadequate supplies of potable water; waterborne diseases, deforestation with soil erosion and degradation

As far as religion is concerned, North Korea was traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, with some Christianity. Now however, autonomous religious activities are almost nonexistent because of governmental pressure. There are government sponsored religious groups in the North, but they exist only to provide a claim of religious freedom.

North Korea is a literate society, that is, of those aged fifteen years and over, 99 percent can read and write. This literacy rate is the same as the United States.

So with such a high literacy rate, and some natural resources, why is North Korea dark? Why does it face such desperate economic conditions?

North Korea’s industrial capital stock is nearly gone because of years of underinvestment and shortages of spare parts, and it’s industrial and power output have been in decline and continue to decline.

North Korea received agricultural assistance from South Korea and other nations, and had an increased harvest in 2005, but North Koreans still suffered their eleventh year of food shortages. Why? Because of on-going systemic problems that include insufficient arable land, collective farming practices and shortages of farming equipment such as tractors, and the fuel to make them go.

It’s only because of massive international aid in the form of food deliveries that have allowed the North Korean people to escape mass starvation. But they continue to suffer from malnutrition and poor living conditions.

North Koreans have been hungry for a long, long, time.

Of course, North Korea’s massive military spending consumes the resources needed for investment and civilian use.

In 2004, Kim Jong Il, Chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea, Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, and General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, (or despotic dictator) formalized an arrangement allowing private "farmers markets" to begin selling goods. He also permitted some private farming on an experimental basis in an attempt to improve agricultural output.

But then, In October 2005, Kim Jong Il reversed some of these policies by forbidding the private sale of grain and he reinstated a centralized food ration system. Two months later, the regime confirmed that it was going to terminate all international humanitarian assistance operations, and to restrict the activities of aid organizations such as the World Food Program.

In fact, North Koreans are so desperate to escape famine, economic deprivation, and political oppression, that neighboring China has an illegal immigration problem as tens of thousands of North Koreans attempt to cross the border.

Can you imagine how bad life must be that you would want to escape to China?

So, while North Korea cannot feed its population, Kim Jong Il continues to squander precious resources to maintain an army of 1 million, and a very active nuclear weapons program.

Of course, like any good dictator, Kim Jong Il’s political control remains his top concern, and his people be damned to starvation.


Blogger MonicaR said...

It's a shame - those people are starving.

I have a map of the night sky for the world. I showed the Korean peninsula to the girlies and told them, 'That's where communism will get you.'

8:32 PM  

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