Thursday, February 11, 2010

North Korea: The Won Starts to Hit the Fan

It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on inside North Korea. Visitors are strictly forbidden from having any real contact with the people, and all lines of communication in and out of the country are tightly controlled by the government. (If they weren’t, how would the regime be able to get away with news broadcasts that start out, “Today, the world’s people are consistently envious of our people, calling our people the people blessed with the leader”?)

Nevertheless, some Chinese smugglers and “North Koreans close to the Chinese border who take the risk of keeping illegal mobile telephones” have informed London's Times that the people of North Korea aren’t taking the latest outrages lying down. In November, the government revalued the country’s currency, the won, at a hundredth of its old value, instantly wiping out the savings of...well, anyone who had savings. The sole purpose of this move? To crack down on “private markets, which have become an essential part of the food-supply system in the chronically hungry North.” It’s all part of the regime’s “Fifty Day Battle” against evil capitalists.

The result?

Agents of the People’s Safety Agency (PSA)...were reported to have been attacked and driven away as they sought out market activity in the city of Pyongsung, in North Pyongan province. In the once prosperous industrial city of Chongjin, on the country’s east coast, a steel worker named Jeung Hyun Deuk was reported to have killed an agent of the National Security Agency (NSA) named Cho.

Killed? In a country where your kids and parents can be sent to death camps if you speak against the government? Whoa.

Apparently, even North Koreans know when they’re getting totally screwed.

According to reports from inside the country, after the unrest, the government reversed its decision to ban private markets, and the member of the ruling party responsible for the crackdown has been “purged.” Hmm...

Sometimes, the fact that I grew up in a middle class home in the United States of America, while twenty million other people grew up trapped in a country built in the image of Kim Jong Il's diseased brain, gives me the chills. Come, Lord Jesus.

See also: Christopher Hitchens' great review of the book The Cleanest Race, which argues that Kim Jong Il’s regime is rooted not only in crazier-than-usual Stalinism, but rightist ultranationalism and xenophobia. Pretty disturbing.

In other news, it’s the end of another all-nighter for this undergrad. Ironically, I spent it reading economics journals, trying to figure out why South Korea’s economy is so magical. Something about “capital factor accumulation.” Blah. Enough to make me want to become a Marxist. Almost.


  1. "Enough to make me want to become a Marxist. Almost."

    You're making progress, then! ;-)


    Please share this link with those who might be interested.

    go to WWW.AMAZON.COM and search for Ludwik Kowalski


    P.S. The book is waiting for a reviewer