Thursday, December 04, 2003

U.N.: North Korea's Experiment Failing


You think? As millions of people are starving the world's last totalitarian Communist state would be considered by most a failing experiment. However, that is not what UN is talking about.

"We have just started to discover and realize the magnitude of the problem," Hyder told reporters in Seoul. "It's more than a momentary blip."


Could they be talking about reported cases of cannibalism? Gulag-like camps? Nukes pointed to South Korea and Japan? Persistent efforts to sell nuclear and missile technology to the highest bidder? No way.

By dabbling with capitalism, North Korea is creating a new class of urban poor that is worsening its hunger problem, a top U.N. official said Wednesday.

About 1 million urban workers have fallen victim as once centrally controlled industries have to cut costs and jobs amid free-market pressures, said Masood Hyder, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in North Korea.


Obviously, it is much better to have a centralized economy that cannot feed its people than to have ever-so-slightly less centralized one that at least gives a shot for people to buy rice at 44 cents per pound, instead of the rationed pound of rice going for 17 cents. Except it is rationed. Which means there is not enough of it, otherwise who would be buying it for 44 cents/pound?

To be fair, the UN official is only spinning his official line. After all, he is the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in North Korea. I guess ABC news gets the credit for titling and subheading the article in this manner. One could read these lines from the article

As evidence of the reforms he has witnessed, Hyder cited a blossoming of small enterprises, new stores, mobile phone usage, consumers' markets and price increases.


as something modestly positive. But between the U.N. and ABC, there is only the dark lining (and it is not nukes pointing to US and Japan)

Hunger and health woes, traditionally a rural plight in North Korea, are an increasingly urban phenomenon that is likely to worsen, Hyder said.

A key cause of the new problem is corporate-belt tightening, common in industrialized countries, but largely unknown until now in the communist North, he said.


I always get the feeling that people who work for United Nations do not understand that gainful employment is not something governments are able to guarantee (unlike the Soviet constitution) but a social contract between a productive worker and someone who can make money off that worker's productivity. I have been unemployed and underemployed, and have no illusions on how hard it is to lose a job and support a family without one. However, noone benefits from having millions of people consuming resources and producing goods that noone could possibly want or use. In the same time period USA has lost more than a million manufacturing jobs as well, and China lost millions more. Yet, somehow North Korea prior to these reforms is coming off as some sort of worker's paradise. They did not have layoffs! They also do not have food, but how could that possibly be the result of a corrupt government.

The solution is obviously to pump money into Kim Jong Il's coffers.

While government officials are aware of the strains, there are few resources to provide a social safety net for affected workers. Outside aid would not only help avoid a humanitarian crisis, it would encourage the government to push ahead with its painful reforms, Hyder said.

One way to help would be for international donors to answer a $221 million humanitarian aid appeal from the United Nations and several aid groups, Hyder said. Of that amount, the WFP is seeking $191 million, in part to help offset the effects on restructured workers.

But only 57 percent of the $225 million aid agencies asked for in 2003 has been pledged, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. That shortfall came amid an international standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs and other disputes that have yet to be resolved.


Yeah, that last sentence refers to a rather important issue at the table. ABC News could mention that USA has already bailed North Korea out once. And what they got in return was nukes and missile sales. Let's do that again - it worked so well last time.

pointer to the article from USS Clueless - UNMOVIC is on the job

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