Slave to the Blog: Food, Atrocities, Fire Sales, Boat People, and Cell Phones

June 20, 2011 6:30 AM

The North Korean food situation appears to be deteriorating. Daily NK is reporting on the basis of “North Korean sources” that, as predicted, the spring potato harvest is down.  Here in Washington rumor has it that the Administration is likely to decline to provide aid due to concerns over diversion. (Welcome to 1995: its déjà vu all over again. With the Republicans in control of the House and ready to use North Korea as a cudgel with which to beat the Obama administration heading into the elections, do not expect the Administration to expend much political on North Korea.)  Indeed, an amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill by Rep. Royce (R-Ca) to prohibit use of the PL-480 (“Food for Peace”) account to provide aid to North Korea passed on a voice vote. One potential source of uncertainty is Europe: having completed their own assessment will the EU insert itself into the situation or defer diplomatically to the stance adopted by South Korea, the US, and Japan. Or maybe they will just decide to send the aid to Greece.

The Korea Times summarized the allegation by a North Korean refugee originally reported by Free North Korea Radio that she was subjected to forcible abortion earlier this year while in custody after being repatriated from China. We documented such claims in both the China- and South Korea-based refugee surveys in Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea.  Changes in the North Korean legal code theoretically banned such practices several years ago, but reports such as this one continue.

North Korea is once again threatening to “dispose” of South Korean assets at Mt. Kumgang, citing a new law that empowers them to do so.  Last month my colleague Steph Haggard characterized the North Korean position as

This time, we really, really, really mean it.

No investor with the wherewithal to manage a project of this size is going to step into the political and legal problems that such an investment would create; contacts in Seoul report to us that the Chinese see participation in this venture as a no-no. But it is what the new decree says about the North that is revealing: the belief that you can attract new investors while expropriating existing ones.”

Nine more boat people have arrived in South Korea.  Once again, North Korea is demanding their return, and once again South Korea is refusing.

While North Korea is cracking down on cell phones operating on the Chinese network, Orascom reports that it has signed up more than 500,000 subscribers on the official North Korean network.



That House vote got huge play here, with the media going down the "US bans food aid" line pretty hard. Interesting.


Diversion might be a legitimate concern, although the UN seems to be happy with their agreement, and presumably the NGOs would get the same deal. If the answer is no, I hope the US can explain what was insufficient about the WFPs monitoring conditions. However, I am concerned that the US will be forced to enter the fray in the coming year or two anyway. Whether because of nuclear negotiations or tests, food crisis, market crackdown, economic collapse, or succession struggles. The list goes on. And many of these issues will overlap and play off of each other... Make no mistake. The US cannot afford to stand on the sidelines when things deteriorate on the Korean peninsula.

Charles McCain

Why should we help feed North Korea? Let them starve. Cruel? Yes. Heartless? Perhaps. Rational? Absolutely. Think of this: we are involved in killing Lord knows how many people in Libya through air strikes that hit the wrong target. We regularly kill dozens of people a week through collateral damage with drone attacks/air attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Between six hundred thousand to a million Iraqis died in our little venture over there not to mention the hundreds of thousands, particularly children, who died prior to the US attack because of the US embargo on medicine. A nuclear armed North Korea, who will presumably have in the near future the ability to hit the continental US with a nuclear warhead carried by their own ICBM, is far more dangerous to the US than Iraq ever was. Starvation is a powerful weapon of war and one we have used before. What do you think the submarine campaign against Japan in WW Two was about? Starving them into submission. And it helped us be victorious. We let over 30,000 German POWs starve to death because they had surrendered after the formal surrender of the Third Reich and they were classed as "unarmed enemy combatants." For Pete's sake, let's not be squeamish about this. This is war. Charles

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