North Korean Free Market Causes Famine!

In a story on North Korea's impending famine, James Brooke at the NY Times takes a cue from the BBC and writes:

A decade ago, up to two million North Koreans starved to death in one of the rare peacetime famines of modern history. The famine was caused by a cutoff in Soviet aid, a collapse of North Korea's industrial economy, and the reluctance of a highly xenophobic government to receive foreign aid... Unless new food comes quickly from the outside, the number of North Koreans receiving foreign food aid will plunge to 1.5 million in August, from 6.5 million people this spring...

About 70 percent of North Korea's population lives in cities, where the collapse of a state food distribution system and partial free market reforms have forced them to buy food at market prices.

Since August 2003, the market prices of rice and corn have increased fivefold, hitting 750 won per kilo of rice on Wednesday.

North Korean monthly salaries, which have not changed during that time, average about 2,400 won. The official exchange rate is 140 won to the dollar. The unofficial rate is 2,550 won to the dollar...

On April 11, the annual meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly approved two major policies for the year: increasing national defense against the United States and improving farm production. "Agriculture is the main front in the socialist economic construction this year," Premier Pak Pong Ju said in a speech to the assembly, a rubber-stamp group that routinely approves legislation within a few hours, without debate. [NYT]

What are these reforms? When Brooke writes that "partial free market reforms have forced them to buy food at market prices," perhaps he means "the total absence of a domestic food supply has forced them to buy food from foreigners, who use the price system." That's not a "market reform" on the part of Kim Jong Il. Moreover, it is socialism's total failure that is responsible for North Koreans' lack of purchasing power.

[Cross-posted from Exploit the Worker]

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sorry, xteve, i'm not angry

sorry, xteve, i'm not angry at them, au contraire, if any of them made a brazen daylight escape and embraced liberty in broken 'engrish', i'd let em live in my house till all 50 of them got an apartment together. i get retarded over the liberal solution to everything, which is stick food in thier mouths and they'll automatically love us and democracy. its patently not true and trillions of dollars sunk into Africa is the only example we need. liberals and altruist's never learn, which makes me suspicious that they have a information retention problem or something. Ayn Rand was completely correct on that point. Freedom loving North Koreans!?!!?? bring em on.:smitten:

qwest, I agree that there's

qwest, I agree that there's nothing we can do to help them, materially. Sending them food will only worsen matters if they still don't understand. We can help them understand, though. We may disagree whether it's worth it to try. I just don't think being angry at them will help their education, or improve anything for anybody.

xteve, i've got to tell you,

xteve, i've got to tell you, its worse than incompetent. its a filthy socialist cabal, the whole seething nest(the media and NK haha).
thank allah for the internet.
i've got nothing personal against North Koreans. i'm of the strong opinion that its like alchoholism, theres nothing you can do unless that person wants to quit. you and i have no idea whose getting the food, if they understand where it came from, theres no stipulations attached etc etc etc. sending food to them cart blanche is insane. wheres the general who snaps and puts a bullet in his head? the rogue minister inside? maybe they all like it? i know its the 'judeo-christian' reflex action to fill every open mouth with food cause of altruism, but in many many cases people deserve exactly what the fuck they're getting. this is one of em.starving is terrible and if that won't learn em about the insanity of socialism then i don't want them in my fucking hood.

"If they’re too fucking

"If they’re too fucking stupid and bovine to rise up on thier hind legs and get rid of the guy EN MASSE then what hope do they have , even in a capitalist society?"

qwest, are you suggesting that the Korean nation, as a group, spontaniously act in uniform agreement, without any prior discussion or planning, rise up, & eliminate the very collective that would kill the first one to try to persuade others to join him & in carrying out such a deed? My head spins from the contradictions. They're not unified enough as a group to act as individuals? Is that what you mean?

To me this is not a question of whether the North Koreans deserve our respect or not, but whether the mainstream media does. They're a bunch of useless incompetents.

Ok, how do you know 'what is

Ok, how do you know 'what is being done to them'? if the information we're getting is so distorted who knows, maybe they go to bed starving wishing hatred on the capitalist pigs? maybe they're 'lovin it'? how do we know? until someone or a group of them stands up on thier hind legs and says this is bullshit and its gone on for 50 years I have no intention of sending them my love or respect or money. they have not earned any of it. half the people your sending food to might like to stomp on your face with a jackboot, you have no idea.

Again, the famine in North

Again, the famine in North Korea is very similar to that in China during the Great Leap. An oustanding book on this is Hungry Ghosts by Jasper Becker. One of the questions Becker discusses is why the Chinese didn't rebel. Up to 30 million people starved to death, in just a few years, for no particular reason. Why didn't they do something?

It's a hard question to answer, but part of it was probably that, by the time they realized that the government was really going to let them die, they were pretty weak. Why didn't they go somewhere else? There was nowhere to go in China, the borders were closed, and they could be killed for even trying. Plus, hard as it is to imagine, many of them actually believed in their "emporer", Mao (possibly it's the same with the "dear Leader"), until it was too late. The entire book is fascinating and will help people to better understand communism and why it doesn't work.

There are many peole that should take more responsiblity for their own mistakes, but no group deserves what is being done to North Koreans.

I would'nt trust a single

I would'nt trust a single thing either of those lie machines spewed out.
They both are obsessive anti-capitalist mouthpieces. Just like thier comrades in NK. Spew out the party line and lets keep this little jig going as long as we can. They'll defend anything that has the stench of socialism and the pepper hairs lap it up. Thier motivation is to try to get 'an angle or traction' against capitalism, however sickening or shallow or just plain mal-educated it is. In any case, shit like the BBC/Times isn't the problem. The problem is in the general populace of the NK not rising to remove the dictator. This didn't just happen 2 weeks ago. Its been going on for 50 years. THEY'VE DONE IT TO THEMSELVES and have no excuse. Are they plotting, and planning? No, they're cowering like mice.Look next door, they're winners. Same peninsula, so lets blame it on capitalism??!?!?!?!HUH? Let them wallow in thier own shit until they can get the mental horsepower to figure out why they worked themselves into this mess in the first place.

Remember the liberal mantra: throw money and aid at EVERYTHING NO MATTER WHAT.NO ONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIER ACTIONS.

fuck em.

Qwest - Before you judge too

Qwest - Before you judge too harshly, remember you are getting heavily filtered information. There is a strong motiviation for the North Korean leadership to suppress stories of rebellion and promote stories of poor starving peasants done wrong by evil capitalists.

More interesting would be to analyse why the BBC and NY Times would help promote this slant--it could be as simple as they want to guarantee access to the single source of information about North Korea (as in pre-war Iraq), or they could have their own anti-capitalist axe to grind, or some digging might turn up more sinister involvement.


90% of everything in life

90% of everything in life you pull down on your own head. If they're too fucking stupid and bovine to rise up on thier hind legs and get rid of the guy EN MASSE then what hope do they have , even in a capitalist society? If they're not even prepared to do the hard work at the beginning, LIKE EVERY OTHER FORMERLY UNFREE SOCIETY, why should I send them 15 cents??? I don't feel sorry for anyone. guns and bullets are cheap, walk up and blow his fcking brains out , ta da. do the world and themselves a favour.

Qwest, It's difficult to

It's difficult to throw off your shackles when you're in a concentration camp. North Korea keeps prisoners secure by running wire through their collarbones. It prevents people from leaving the country. Public executions also help maintain social control. Starvation also probably does a good job of preventing persons from focusing on other needs that are going unmet.

Besides, there have been cases of dissent, which takes a lot of bravery under these circumstances.

I'm not arguing that food aid is necessarily going to shorten the life span of Kim Jong-Il's regime, nor that we ought to support an extensive aid program, but you seem to be blaming the victim when it's not warranted.

boo fucking hoo....if

boo fucking hoo....if they're so fucking hard done by, then do what everyone else through history has had to do. Violently throw off the shackles. I'm not supporting those airheads, its like rewarding them for stupidity. The way liberals make it sound, they're just waiting for our help so they can have an orange revolution. Contrary to liberal dogma, the only way those people are going to learn is the hard way. It has to start from thier end.
Its just a variation on the Africa theme, keep sending money to corrupt regimes so the corrupt regime can keep torturing them.

Typical of the New York

Typical of the New York Times. You may choke at this one, but it reminds me of a lot of the stuff I hear and read about Cuba. The government there rations food. You get what the government rationing program says you get, unless you go on the black market. There are people (a frightening number) who really, really, truly believe that no one goes hungry in Cuba (except the people in prison, whom we don't talk about), and that government food rationing is the ONLY reason! Cubans are better off than anybody else in Latin America, because the government decides when, what, and how much they get to eat. These people really cannot imagine a better system to get enough food to people than government rationing. It pisses me off, but it no longer surprises me, to hear people (for some reason, they're usually fat Americans) simper about what a wonderful thing it is that in other countries the government literally controls every bite of food that goes into your mouth, because it's obvious that only the government can make sure people get enough to eat!

NYT: Free market caused

NYT: Free market caused famine in North Korea
Spotted at Catallarchy: The New York Times' James Brooke has a curious slant on the North Korean famine. About 70 percent of North Korea's population lives in cities, where the collapse of a state food distribution system and partial free

Hehe, it's those dirty

Hehe, it's those dirty capitalists and their high prices! It couldn't possible be the crippling low real wages caused by an economy wracked by cemtral planning!

The point, I believe,

The point, I believe, underlying this story is that if a staunchly socialist system is injected with a tiny bit of capitalism (in place of socialist handouts), then it is not always a good thing. If socialism has forced a country to become dependent on government handouts, then, replacing a few handouts with "free" markets might do more harm than good.

The problem is that James Brooke represents this as a failure of capitalism. Giving a single drop of water to a person dying of thirst won't save them, but that's not a disproval of the thirst-quenching power of water in general.

What struck me was the claim

What struck me was the claim that this is "one of the rare peacetime famines of modern history". Unfortunately, peacetime famines haven't been all that rare for communist countries (if one can call the normal communist state "peacetime" - communist Parties are, in a sense, constantly at war with their own people).

The North Korean famine has been strikingly similar to the "Great Leap" famine in China, which of course was modeled on the Ukraine famine under the Soviets. To ignore the obvious and argue that peacetime famines are caused by flirtation with capitalism is a deliberate distortion of history. Famines are a natural consequence of the bad incentives, destruction of productive capacity and inevitably repressive nature of communist regimes.

Then I guess we agree.

Then I guess we agree. Thanks for clearing that up.