Korea: Defeat Before Disorder


May 29,2008: The starvation deaths have begun again in the north. As in the past, prisoners in labor camps and jails are the first to go. Withholding food has always been used to help control the prison population. When there's a nationwide shortage, it's easy to cut allocations for the several hundred thousand prisoners. But some farmers in remote areas (far from markets and government food distribution centers), and even some factory workers, are dying as well. Current estimates see about 300,000 dying from starvation if the food supply is not replenished. The government has been distributing the military food stockpiles (the "war reserve") in order to try and stop the growing corruption among government officials, the military, and even the secret police. In view of all that, the United States agreed to deliver 500,000 tons of food over the next year. This is being done despite continued refusal of the North Koreans to keep their promise to dismantle their nuclear weapons program. That's another victory for the North Korean negotiating tactics of "demanding everything, giving nothing, risking all."

In this case, what compelled the U.S. to capitulate and send the food anyway, were intelligence analysis that predicted political collapse up north unless a famine was avoided. No one wants North Korea to just implode. That would be messy, especially with the nuclear weapons, and related technology up, for grabs. Can't have that, not with all those Islamic terrorists out there. While the North Koreans were openly appreciative of the U.S. offer, the need in the coming year is for about 1.8 million tons of food. South Korea, Japan and China are expected to make up the difference. The need may be greater, because it's been colder than usual this Spring, to the point where there's still be frost in some parts of North Korea. This has interrupted a critical phase of rice farming, that is likely to greatly reduce the crop.

The average North Korean knows little about these promises of food aid, and many continue to attempt getting across the border to China. Can't have that either, and North Korean border guards now have orders to "shoot on sight" anyone trying to sneak across the border. The secret police have cracked down on the rampant bribery of border guards, forcing many of those fleeing to try and cross the border at night, in a remote area. People in these areas have reported border guard snipers being posted at likely crossing areas, and work details organized to go collect the bodies. Meanwhile, those North Koreans who have not fled, are fighting back. Recent orders to shut down free markets, resulted in unprecedented public demonstrations. Most of those involved were women, as most of the traders at these markets are women. Not content to just sit back and starve, the women came out and protested, and stared down the police. The markets stayed open.

One of the more common sources of discontent comes from the elderly (aged 60 and up). This generation never knew anything but communism, and are bitter about the current shortages. They yearn for the good old days (which Soviet subsidies kept famine at bay), but they also shower the current North Korean leadership with contempt. Threats from the police don't faze the outspoken old timers. All this confuses many younger North Koreans, who know things are bad but, because of a general information shortage, are not sure why things are the way they are. The elderly malcontents seem sure of what the problem is; poor leadership. So far, these leaders have held back on retaliation. Respect for the elderly is a mainstay of Korean culture, and even with all the revolutionary rants of the communists, persecuting the elderly would still be shameful.




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