The Atlantic on Why North Koreans Don't Have Enough Food


Because I need to feel good about high-fiving over death, no matter whose, check out Jordan Weissmann over at The Atlantic who has a concise overview of why the hell North Koreans always seem to be starving.

North Korea has mountainous, rough terrain which is not great for growing but that difficulty is multiplied by the delusionally isolationist North Korean juche philosophy which meant that the country is supposed to grow all its own food (a difficulty made worse once the country lost its Soviet sugerdaddy in 1991.) Also, the fact that collectivised farming did not go out with those millions of dead Ukrainian peasants in 1933 proved fatal to 1-3 million North Koreans as well.


One Cold War relic in desperate need of reform the country's food distribution system. Crops like rice and corn were raised on collectivist farms, then doled out by the state. The process served a political purpose by funneling cheap food to the country's outsized military, as well as citizens in the capital of Pyongyang, which together made up the base of Kim's power. But it was also ready to collapse. 

In 1995, when the globe first learned about the North Korean famine, Massive floods decimated as much as 15% of North Korea's farmable land. Local officials began hoarding food they were charged with distributing. And a fuel shortage made it impossible to move crops around the country. The government appealed to the World Food Program for humanitarian aid, blaming the floods for the disaster. Yet even as he sought help from abroad, Kim deepened the crisis at home by stumbling into a war with his country's farmers.

Without enough food to go around, the North Korean regime had turned to triage. Pyongyang and the military had to eat, so the government cut rations for farmers instead, slashing the portion of their harvest they could keep to feed their own families. Predictably, there were severe consequences. Faced with the unappealing prospect of going hungry, farmers began hiding their grain. In 1996, the World Food Program found that half the country's corn crop had gone missing. Reports spread of farmers' roofs collapsing under the weight of stashed food. Soldiers were sent to guard the fields at harvest time, but as a United States Institute for Peace report noted, they were easily bribed. After all, the soldiers were hungry, too.

The rest here.

Reason on North Korea and Ira Stoll's most recent column on "Remembering Kim Jong-Il's Victims"(the details of which are rather difficult to read).