13 January 2010

North Korean famine likely to recur

I've talked about the extreme horror of the North Korean famine before, and especially how there is next to nothing the developed world can do to try to ameliorate the problems. Unfortunately, the North Korean government is set to destroy the one institution that had helped people survive before.

Illegal markets sprang up all across North Korea to efficiently manage the distribution of food in the poor country. Now, the government is moving against those markets. It is true that those markets led to a few people in the country becoming rich (by North Korean standards), but they also fed a large portion of the population. This started with a revaluation, making all old money worthless but only allowing any given family to exchange $30 US in old currency, thus destroying any money beyond that anybody had. (It's even a crime to try to burn or destroy the old bills, because they have pictures of the Kim family.) Also, all foreign currency has been banned.

If this destroys the markets, we can expect more people to starve to death, and another generation of mass retardation due to malnutrition. I hope I'm wrong.

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