Wednesday, January 21, 2004

This what we're so afraid of?: Much is made (or not) over North Korea. Evil despot? Check. Oppressed populace? Check. Promoter of terrorism? Check. But still, we go waltzing by every day asking if Dear Leader has any more demands he'd like us to listen to in exchange for him not developing nuclear weapons (assuming he can - we just don't know).

Then you get a closer look at the conditions of North Korea. How can such a society possibly sustain itself in any prolonged conflict? Here's a snippet (the blog is reviewing a book and taking excerpts therefrom):
Two North Koreas exist side by side. The first is the North Korea of Pyongyang-- of gay parades with colorful marxist banners, and of bright, well-fed, and smiling children of the political elite, dressed in clean uniforms and attending well-appointed cadre schools. It is the North Korea of grand boulevards, massive palaces, and mausoleums-- glistening monuments to Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader. It is the North Korea of model collective farms, model hospitals, and model schools. This country does exist-- for the party elites, the cadres, and the military leadership, most of whom live in Pyongyang.

The illusory North Korea of Pyongyang is maintained at high cost: it is purged annually of sick, deformed, and handicapped people as well as of those who have misbehaved. Pyongyang receives a much higher grain ration, and residency is regarded as a great reward for good behavior and faithfulness. ...[A] 1988 human rights report by Asian Watch reported that the capital's dwarfs and other visibly disabled people were periodically rounded up and exiled to a remote city in the Northeast. [...]

The other North Korea is where all these people live in exile, to protect Pyongyang's glistening facade of marxist paradise. It is a North Korea of abandoned factories gutted of machinery to be sold in China for food, of detention camps for displaced people, of deserted schools, and of cannibalized apartment complexes. It is a North Korea with gangs of filthy, malnourished orphans abandoned on city streets, wandering beggars stealing food from the burgeoning farmers markets, and train stations clogged with dying people desperately trying to force themselves on decrepit, overcrowded trains in hopes of escaping to China. It is the hidden face of the famine: tragically real but well hidden from outsiders.
And this country has us on our knees.

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