August 6, 2002
4:06 PM   Subscribe

Did you know that two to three million people (1 in 10) have died from starvation in North Korea since 1995? I didn't. Is branding them a part of the "Axis of Evil" making it worse?
posted by queequeg (31 comments total)
Here's a CNN report and a bunch of links.
posted by queequeg at 4:09 PM on August 6, 2002

Please keep in mind the US government historically does not care much for its own citizens, much less those of a nation half a world away.
posted by xmutex at 4:13 PM on August 6, 2002

things went to hell in a handbasket after hawkeye left.
posted by quonsar at 4:22 PM on August 6, 2002

Why is branding them part of the "Axis" related to the famine? Is the US somehow responsible for the famine, or for fixing it? I'd think that the branding would sort of override any of that, so why does it matter?

It isn't clear to me what your point is.
posted by Su at 4:24 PM on August 6, 2002

It's called economic sanctions, Su, and labelling a country part of the legendary Axis of Evil (tm) will more easily allow the Bush administration to throw them down on the heads of North Korea.

Of course, all they amount to is a wholesale killing of innocent civilians, but Dubya's got no qualms about that.
posted by xmutex at 4:31 PM on August 6, 2002

Not that I don't disagree with Dubya's asinine axis of evil, but doesnt their own damned government shoulder all (if not most of) the blame? The link even cites:
Adding to the situation in North Korea is the country's political isolation and exorbitant military spending.
Not everything is America's fault, you know.
posted by owillis at 4:36 PM on August 6, 2002

Isn't the U.S. won't composed of U.S. citizens? Well, maybe I'm just an idealistic fool.

Wait a minute. . .I'm part of the govn't. . .um, hmmm. . .drat.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:37 PM on August 6, 2002

that country sucks. Note when the mioitary underweight guys to be seen. They were starving etc well before 9/11 and the axis of evil nonsense. Even chia giving up the ghost on the communist thing. Cuba and N. Korea still holding out. And not faring well at all.
posted by Postroad at 4:37 PM on August 6, 2002

Scuse me, spell check changed "govn't" to "won't". Thank you for your patience.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:38 PM on August 6, 2002

It's called economic sanctions, Su, and labelling a country part of the legendary Axis of Evil (tm) will more easily allow the Bush administration to throw them down on the heads of North Korea.

North Korea is starving in large part because they don't really trade with anybody. They're isolationist as hell. Sanctions don't enter into it.
posted by hob at 4:38 PM on August 6, 2002

I understand economic sanctions, Xmutex.
Queequeg's post, and your comment, essentially suggest that sanctioning Korea makes the US responsible for the continuation of the famine.
I'm questioning the assumption that it's America's job to fix their famine and/or feed Korea.
posted by Su at 4:40 PM on August 6, 2002

The...ahem..."workers paradise" recently underwent some creeping steps towards economic reform, and is hinting at playing nice, again. While there is reason to be skeptical, let's hope Kim pulls a Deng.

xmutex: Preemptively slapping the murderous label on Bush for sanctions that don't yet exist is a tactic I'm not familiar with. Particularly insofar as the sanctions were relaxed (pdf) two years ago. Kudos for originality, though.
posted by apostasy at 4:42 PM on August 6, 2002

The west has a lot of problems and anyone who ignores them is an idiot. However what the West has that most of the world needs, is a semblance of accountability, the rule of law, and freedom from institutional tyranny at most levels. While there is no monopoly on Evil, the West clearly has a better environment to institutionally fight it.

The greatest challenge is figuring out how to help develop those values in other countries, while at the same time preserving and enhancing them in those countries that have taken the necessary first steps, such as the US and Europe.

The "Axis of Evil" is really a crude device for expressing a desire for change in countries that desperately need it. The question is, will the change yield a positive result or a negative one. Often the method employed (especially in proportion to the amount and kind of change needed) will be a large factor in the quality of change that comes.

So while it's possible that a crude beginning could herald the kind of long-lasting benficial change that is needed in N. Korea and other countries, I will withold judgement until I see phase II.
posted by cell divide at 4:43 PM on August 6, 2002

Here's an article written in 2001. North Korea is dangerous, unpredictable and violent, terrorist country. Kim Jong-Il says close to 30% of his own population is expendable and he is busy starving them and killing them off. But let's just be fans.
posted by hama7 at 4:55 PM on August 6, 2002

Total U.S. food aid to North Korea since 1995 is 1.9 million metric tons, valued at approximately $620 million. The World Food Program states that in 2000 the United States was the largest donor at $796 Million, Japan 2nd at $260 Million, European Commission next at $118 Million. In 2001 the US donated 63.6% of the total to the WFP.
posted by Mack Twain at 5:34 PM on August 6, 2002

In Paul Theroux's fantastic travel book 'Fresh Air Fiend', he talks about travelling through China. He notices that there is no wall of barbed wire or landmines seperating China and North Korea, unlike most of their border areas.

There's no need - the North Koreans will shoot anyone trying cross from the other direction, and nobody in China in their right mind would want to go there. When that country (almost 10 years ago) fell into famine, they rejected US aid and um, 'the whole rest of the world' aid, although they are now taking it and have allowed their situation to become so dire that they're exhausting the abilities of the charity orgs. Meanwhile, every converted penny they have goes to idiotic sabre-rattling, like lobbing test missiles over Japan (I picture the Japanese government going "Huh?! Dude, we've been pacifists for the last 60 years, why you wanna fuck with us?) and spying on their neighbor to the south from frickin' submarines [ scroll to the bottom ].

The whole 'Axis of Evil' advertising campaign is indeed worthy of a Nobel Idiot Prize, but North Korea's problems are of it's government's own making.
posted by GriffX at 5:35 PM on August 6, 2002

In my opinion, N Korea is a rigid, authoritarian state totally unprepared for the changes that have come in the last 12 years, especially:

1) The collapse of the USSR

2) The death of Kim Il Sung, the "Great Leader", and the transition of rule to his weaker son.

Their response has been to 'go with what they know' as the 70's people used to say. N Korea spent the 90's pursuing a policy of isolationism, military adventurism, and totalitarian circle-jerking even to the point of nuclear brinkmanship.

There was a period of 'constructive engagement' in the Clinton administration, but that opportunity (assuming it wasn't an illusion) has been squandered.

My heart goes out to the starving people in N Korea, but sending more aid probably won't help them. The regime won't use food aid to feed the people more than they must feed the people. Probably they would try to use extra food to foment internal divisions to advance their advantage or goals.
posted by crunchburger at 5:53 PM on August 6, 2002

Did you know that two to three million people (1 in 10) have died from starvation in North Korea since 1995?

I did. Do I get a cookie?
posted by NortonDC at 6:03 PM on August 6, 2002

Feeding The Dictator.
posted by hama7 at 6:55 PM on August 6, 2002

US foreign policy has little to do with famine in North Korea. I think it makes sense to provide aid to countries that are no less deserving, and certainly more grateful.

North Korea produces a great propaganda magazine. I think it's called "Democratic People's Republic of Korea." I think most university libraries would get this.

In one issue, the table of contents listed stories such as, "Conquerors of Nature, Arable Land Extends"; "Abundant Harvest and Distribution."

There's also always a story on how terrible South Korea is. In this edition, the story is "Violation of Human Rights in South Korea."

I typed out an article from the magazine:

The article proper describes the building of the Humhung Grand Theatre. This is Kim Jong Il, responding to an official who (it appears) had suggested that the resources would perhaps be better spent on other things:

"He added, 'You may use money and supplies preferentially for the construction of large factories in order to complete them before the opening of the Party Congress. But you must not delay construction of the theatre of use the supplies for its building in another project.' He observed that he would support them and they must spare nothing for the benefit of the working people. The official was deeply moved by the nobility of mind."
posted by mstillwell at 7:58 PM on August 6, 2002

Thank goodness this thread didn't develop into another America-bash fest.
posted by owillis at 8:08 PM on August 6, 2002

this thread didn't develop into another America-bash fest

That's because I haven't bothered diving in yet...

Self-links to some of my musings on this topic : here, here, here, here, and here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:28 PM on August 6, 2002

Among the more bizarre exploits of North Dear Leader Kim Land are these: Kim Jong Il was responsible for bombing a plane carrying S Korean diplomats, and an attempt on the S Korean President's life, while on a state visit to Myanmar, missed him but killed another 17 high-ranking S Koreans.

Also, 3750 S Koreans have been kidnapped along with some Japanese citizens, many held for years for absolutely no rational reason. One person kidnapped especially for the entertainment of the Dear Leader was a S Korean actress; she and her director husband were forced to make films (such as a laughable Godzilla knock-off) for the film buff future Dear Leader for 8 years. As crazy as this sounds, it's hard to discount given the other stories. They gin up bizarre gunfights at sea at the most inopportune times, and when their agents are captured they often commit suicide, to the bafflement of S. Korean officials who would by all accounts treat them humanely.

Without a doubt, it's the most paranoid regime on the planet.
posted by dhartung at 11:01 PM on August 6, 2002

One thing to think about: S. Korea throws away more food then N. Korea produces.

oh, and xmutex: wtf?
posted by delmoi at 1:19 AM on August 7, 2002

Well, everyone has beaten me to most of the things I was going to write, so I'll just remind you that N. Korea has a 1.2 million-man armed forces, for a country of 21 million. One out of 20 is in uniform to defend the great state, and they are eating the rice from South Korea, Japan and the World Food Program (biggest donor: Uncle Sam), while the peasants (and boy are they peasants) eat the bark off the trees. BTW, before they bring the charity rice away from the docks, they remove it from the bags that say "Gift from Japan/Korea/World Food Program." What do the foreigners get? A carrot on a telescoping stick, hints at reconciliation and reform, then more demands for food, a "fuck you" missile launch over the Japanese mainland, a lot of cheap crystal meth (much of the illegal drugs entering japan are from North Korean stealth ships like the one sunk recently).

Did you know that MOST of NK's income is from drug trafficking and unreported, smuggled out pachinko proceeds in Japan ( I kid you not).

That country is a basket case, it's their own fault, and they should wake up and do something about it. Any food aid until then is prolonging the misery.

(When did I get so coldhearted?)
posted by planetkyoto at 8:51 AM on August 7, 2002

Stavros, I read your rants and note that the disaffection the populace feels toward the US military is about the same as that expressed in Japan, Okinawa, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Germany. The world needs to know that yes, we may help you but no, we will not leave afterwords. All those hapless duffuses who invited their mother in law to live with them for a couple months and thirty years later she's still grinding your nutz off know what I'm saying. Fact is, S. Korea with it's huge modern army could ask us to leave any time but they don't, just like the others mentioned earlier don't ask or demand our exit. Why? Well, for one thing Japan fears a united Korea, especially one with nukes, and the US seems to favor reunification after N. Korea is demilitarized which isn't going to happen, and S. Korea wants unification if it means they are in charge of a huge military with advanced missle tech and a nuclear program which *may* have already produced nukes, and the North holds out for a power sharing role by basically blackmailing it's enemies into helping it survive until the best deal can be made. So it seems that the four main players (N/S/J/US) have their own agendas and are working at cross purposes while using and playing off each other. Here's a good little article about the Koreas and the end of the Cold War: Two Koreas: Chess Pieces Left Behind
posted by Mack Twain at 9:57 AM on August 7, 2002

One more Korea item: a regional trim of the famous Earthlights image [wallpaper size] from NASA shows N Korea as a blank spot. There's the bright, bespotted Japan; down a little is Taiwan, with its intense settled west coast; back up to S. Korea, nearly as well-lit as Japan, with a large spot for Seoul; then ... nothing, a big blank space, except for Pyongyang. It might as well be more of the Sea of Japan.
posted by dhartung at 10:18 AM on August 7, 2002

How horribly, horribly sad.

How long will it go on? Do we have to just sit by and wait until they implode, lest they use nukes?

I wish there was a better solution.
posted by beth at 11:39 AM on August 7, 2002

... nothing, a big blank space, except for Pyongyang. It might as well be more of the Sea of Japan.

The Sea of Japan is actually filled with lights at night from squid fishing boats. Quite a sight actually though I can't find decent pics. The lights don't show up in that NASA Earthlights image you linked for some reason. Maybe they were photoshopped out along with the Northern Lights so only city lights are shown?
posted by euphorb at 12:13 PM on August 7, 2002

euphorb: the NASA image is a composite, not a rendering of reality. It does seem that ocean areas are uniformly dark navy, and continents a dark denim blue.
posted by dhartung at 1:21 PM on August 7, 2002

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