North Korea: Hunger, Inflation and …Protests?

In spite of one of the best harvest in a decade, North Korea recently cut the daily ration of maize, rice and potatoes from 300g to 250g per individual.

Some theorize that the move is designed to encourage the growth of farmer’s markets, a gudging experiment of free-market forces which were only recently implemented. However it seems that farmers have started holding back some of their harvest from the government in order to sell it at the market, where thier goods demand fabulous prices (1kg of rice currently costs 30% of the average monthly wage). No real surprise there — such is the bitter fruit of partial deregulation (shades of Californian energy!).

A video tape was recently smuggled out of the country that depicts the beginnings of rebelion:

The first images of dissident activities in North Korea show a poster of Kim Jong-il covered in handwritten slogans against the leader. “People, let’s stage both violent and non-violent struggles,” said a leader of the North Korean group Youth Solidarity for Freedom in a spoken statement recorded on the videotape. “It’s a legitimate struggle if you refuse to go to work when your factory does not provide food and living allowances. [. . .] “Why is Kim Jong-il so intent on blocking reform and openness?” [. . .] “Down with Kim Jong-il! People, let’s all rise up and drive out the dictatorship!”

The tape has not yet been authenticated, but add two other items of interest:

  1. North Korean refugees in South Korea speak in fact of increasingly frequent disturbances in rural towns in which people clamour for food and the removal of the country’s leader.
  2. China has moved troops up to its border with North Korea which, according to an analyst with The Japan Times, shows how much Beijing is concerned about possible troubles in its neighbour.

Interesting times.

Posted January 24th, 2005 Filed in North Korea