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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Slave to the Blog: Updates Galore!

by | February 24th, 2011 | 10:38 pm
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As we have indicated in a series of posts, signs point to a deteriorating food situation in North Korea. Now, a consortium of US NGOs who were involved in the last major relief effort in 2008 has completed an assessment which is sobering to say the least.  They document a downward revision in expected spring harvest, a compression of commercial imports, and acute malnourishment among children in several locations they visited—with the worse yet to come. According to Reuters’ AlertNet, North Korea is making a push at 40 embassies around the world for assistance; the Czechs have declined, but the US government is actively considering aid. Noland will be testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on this issue next week; stay tuned.

One bright spot is that Good Friends reports that an influx of grain from China has pushed down the price of grain, but the effect is likely to be temporary; in the past, when world grain prices are rising and domestic inflation is accelerating (as is happening now) China has cut back on aid and commercial exports of food to North Korea, most recently during the 2008 experience.

We speculated in an earlier post on Chinese-DPRK military cooperation in the border region and got called out on it; now news sources are exploding with stories of tightened controls and concerns about contagion from the Middle East.

We are frequently asked about popular discontent in North Korea.  The limited number of civil protests that we observe are linked to pocketbook issues like the currency reform. Now there are reports, unconfirmed of course, of protests related to the power shortages that we discussed previously.

Speaking of another type of contagion, there is so much activity on the hoof-and-mouth front that we will devote an entire additional post to this issue.

We’ve been having fun with devolving technologies employed in North-South psych-ops, and with the revelation that hot air balloons are being used to bring news of Middle East rebellions to North Korea we’ve now reached the 18th century.

Finally, we blogged about juche study tours and golf, and then received a message from North Korea 1-on-1 announcing its 2011 group tour packages. Nothing about pro-am golf tournaments, but all standard tours include Pyongyang, Myohyang, Kaesong, and Panmunjom, and some more adventuresome packages include Mt. Paektu, Mt. Chilbo, Hamhung and Wonsan. Safe travels!