Friday, April 23, 2004

North Korea: The train explosion is a terrible tragedy, no doubt, but a typical NK fish story, too. Last night we heard "3,000 dead." Today, it's down to 150 -- though incomplete and rising. But, we're told, the blast destroyed 1,850 houses or apartments and damaged an additional 6,350. Without even including non-residential buildings or the train station itself, such damage could put 3,000 as the minimum. Who knows. And the explosion was caused by, in various reports, "dynamite," "oil," "liquefied petroleum," "fuel," or "ammonium nitrate."

Here's a limited window on the mentality of the NK-style cover-up, quoting defectors, and some details of the immediate media/propaganda atmosphere:

The head of South Korea's National Red Cross is currently in Pyongyang and had offered aid to the North Koreans, but has received no information concerning the disaster.

Offers of humanitarian aid from South Korea, Australia and the United States were met with silence.

International aid agencies and diplomats based in Pyongyang have also been kept in the dark.

A correspondent for Russia's ITAR-TASS, one of the few journalists from an outside the country based in Pyongang, said that North Korean officials refused to comment on the disaster and North Korea's media was mute.

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