Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Welcome to North Korea


From The Sunday Times review of Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick.

Children don’t celebrate their own birthdays, only those of the two Kims. At school they sing songs about the “American bastards”. “With guns that I make with my own hands, I will shoot them Bang Bang Bang.”

In the 1990s, the country was struck by famine. The government started preaching, Let’s eat only two meals a day!, and state news reported a man whose stomach had burst open from eating too much rice. When food ran short, the regime didn’t try to produce more. It simply told bigger lies.....


People began picking kernels of ­undigested corn out of the excrement of farm animals. By 1995, almost all the frogs in the country had been eaten. The government announced it was stockpiling food for the poor, starving South Koreans in readiness for imminent unification. Children died first, of dysentery, pneumonia or typhoid, and then the fittest and most muscular died — they have faster metabolisms and burn more calories. The country received $2.4 billion in food aid, much of it from the “American bastards”, but perhaps 2m starved to death.



Yes yes, but if we could just give Communism a proper chance…

10 comments:

Gaw said...

Hitchens wrote a good review of this book too:

http://www.slate.com/id/2243112/

And this puts it all in context [warning: rude words]:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6rDeOojFXk

Brit said...

Heh heh - Team America is a truly great film.

The Hitch appears to be reviewing a book by BR Myers rather than this one. Interesting article though. He argues that NK should now be viewed less as a Stalinist state now and more as an extreme right, nationalist state. All of which is by the bye, as once you go beyond the basic structure of liberal democracy, the idea that these totalitarian states are extensions of ideas represented by the terms 'left' and 'right' as we currently use them is pretty meaningless (ie. We operate in a v narrow tinkering debate, in which left and right are merely shades of the same thing; and then there's everything else beyond the Pale. Thus the indecent left in this country has allied itself with islamic fascists and anti-semitism is now a left-wing thing, etc.)

Brit said...

(Pic shows North and South Korea by night.)

Gaw said...

I agree that left and right are pretty irrelevant in this context. It's more about being 'anti-[insert name of posited system here]' and the degree to which you're going to take it.

Peter Burnet said...

I'm not saying everything is ok in North Korea, but at least they are spared the corruption of runaway consumerism and conspicuous consumption;

Sure they are poor, but they are equitably poor;

They would be a lot better off if the Americans hadn't threatened them and forced them to invest so much in self-defence;

Say what you will, they have the lowest carbon footprint in the world.

If you had been a colony of Japan for as long as they were, you'd be a little xenophobic too;

We can't begin to understand the traditional cultural factors that led them to make the choices they did. Who the hell do we think we are?

They aren't communist at all. They are fascist.

Brit said...

And they have escaped the obesity epidemic...

And they have one of the lowest light-pollution problems in the world...

Willard said...

You would think they'd ring an anti-bullying hotline...

worm said...

Grim reading. Sounds remarkably like North Cornwall.

Hey Skipper said...

I fly out of Seoul sometimes, mostly at night.

Occasionally, though, I head to Beijing during the day. The route goes west, just south of Nork coastline for about 100 miles.

The place looks absolutely dead.

David said...

Obviously, a nation of avid amateur astrologists.