Slave to the Blog: Ever More Updates!

April 16, 2011 2:30 PM

We’ve been writing a lot about the aid issue; David Straub, in particular, has made the straightforward utilitarian argument that in a world of limited resources, North Korea has no special privilege, and aid may be better allocated elsewhere. Now the US Congress has cut the budget for foreign food aid assistance, tightening those constraints and the salience of Straub’s argument.

We’ve discussed the implications of the situation in Libya for North Korea from a number of angles, including military connections and the implications for North Korean denuclearization from both the North Korean and American perspectives. Jennifer Lee earlier commented on the story that North Korean workers had been left stranded in Libya. Now Yonhap claims, citing an unnamed source, that in contrast to other countries which have urged their nationals to evacuate, the North Koreans have been ordered to stay put.

Jen also did a piece on Mt. Baekdu diplomacy (and nuclear activity on the Chinese side of the border!); North and South Korea recently concluded an agreement to continue their cooperation in the field of vulcanology.

Cell phones are another topic of recurring interest.  This week Naguib Sawiris, the head of Orascom Telecom, the foreign cell phone operator in North Korea, formed a political party in his native Egypt. The Coptic Christian was considered a long-shot for the presidency in the predominately Muslim country, and has now stated that he will not stand for that office.  He has sold his company to Russia's VimpelCom, retaining ownership of the firm's Egyptian and North Korean operations, however. The North Korean crackdown on electronic devices continues to draw interest.

In an earlier post, my colleague Professor Haggard poked fun at Paul Tjia and his entrepreneurial efforts at GPI Consulting. Now, I see that they are scheduling another trade mission for May for those interested.

Disappointed North Koreans used to call this “econ-tourism.” I’m not sure how one would describe the visit to Pyongyang by former President Jimmy Carter and other Elders slated for later this month. Having retrieved Aijalon Gomes last August, maybe he could make it two-for-two and free imprisoned Korean-American businessman Jun Young Su, reportedly charged with spreading Christianity.

Finally, on the “does one laugh or does one cry” front, while North Korea is begging for aid, the Chosun Ilbo claims on the basis of an unnamed source that Kim Jong-il spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on pedigree dogs.  The classic piece on dictators and their dogs is Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Emperor, his account of the court of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie:  “It was a small dog,” recalls an anonymous functionary, “a Japanese breed. His name was Lulu. He was allowed to sleep in the Emperor's great bed. During various ceremonies, he would run away from the Emperor's lap and pee on dignitaries' shoes. The august gentlemen were not allowed to flinch or make the slightest gesture when they felt their feet getting wet. I had to walk among the dignitaries and wipe the urine from their shoes with a satin cloth. This was my job for ten years.” Top that, Chairman Kim.

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Marcus Noland Senior Research Staff

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