In the north, destitution is the rule. South Korean economists have
downgraded their estimates of per capita income in North Korea. It's now
believed to be under $1,000 a year (it's over $25,000 in the south). Power and
food shortages have left many farms unable to work on the Spring planting. As
seen from space, North Korea is dark at night, while South Korea is lit up. The
newly elected, conservative, president of South Korea has told the north that
food aid would no longer be automatically sent. The north would have to be more
cooperative in areas of economic development and nuclear disarmament. The new South
Korean government further irritated the North Korean officials by increasing
radio broadcasts to the north that told people up there about why more free
food and fuel was not going to arrive until the North Korean government kept
its earlier promises to South Korea. To back up this, South Korea released
photos it had taken (with special long range cameras) near the DMZ, clearly showing
Red Cross food aid being transferred to the military in 2006 and 2007. The
previous South Korean government, following a decade long "sunshine policy" had
discussed these photos privately with North Korean officials. There was never
any response. So the new South Korean government released the photos. The north
has been caught diverting food aid to the military dozens of times since 2003,
and has ignored foreign criticism of this. As a result, many nations will not
contribute food aid to North Korea any more. The food shortage is so severe
this Winter that lower ranking government officials had their food rations cut.
This had never happened before.
Korean armed forces have lost the power struggle with the "economic reformers"
in the government. Many senior generals have been forced to retire in the past
few months. The military has been stripped of many of its economic assets,
mainly because of mismanagement and corruption. The police have been given the
power to arrest military personnel for "economic crimes" and corruption. Meanwhile,
the growing use of narcotics in the north (by those getting rich in the black
market and along the Chinese border) has resulted in harsher penalties. From
now on, anyone caught with more than a quarter pound of narcotics will be
Korea military has been declining for over a decade, and the government has
apparently concluded that there's no point in putting a lot of money into the
military when the economic situation is so dire.
Chinese border, North Koreans are so desperate to get out that they are selling
themselves into slavery (or, rather, indentured servitude, where they work for
free for a period of time to work off the money used to get them past the border
guards). North Korean refugees are increasingly suffering from stress related
disorders. This is the result of increasing police activity back home.
Korea has entered into a trade deal with Uganda. North Korea will supply
weapons and training for Ugandan police, while the African nation will export food
and silk. More importantly, North Korea announced new economic reforms. The
government is giving in to Chinese demands that economic reforms, like those
that made China rich in the last three decades, be implemented in North Korea.
Meanwhile, North Korea continues to delay providing proof that it has halted
its nuclear weapons program. The new reforms will take at least a year to show
some results, and in the meantime, the food, corruption and public order
situations will get worse.