Last year I reviewed a book about North Korea (Escape from Camp 14) in a commentary titled Justice would demand they be sentenced to dig up frozen human waste with their bare hands. The book is about the political prisoner slave labor camp system that has been a feature of this regime practically since the country was divided into North and South. Little has changed in that dreadful place since I wrote that piece; its government is still a blight on the world ,and its people are no better off now that 28-year-old Kim Jong Un replaced his late father, Kim Jong Il.
Although I don’t go out of my way to read about North Korea, news stories about the country pop up relentlessly in the news. The ruling regime makes headlines by habitually menacing and provoking certain of its neighbors, and the U.S. Its belligerence is no accident. Making shrill threats is a key component of North Korea’s survival. The constant state of tension produced by the threats results in cycles of prolonged negotiations that leads to foreign aid, without which the country couldn’t survive. So you might say making threats is a negotiating strategy. For a capsule look at how this works, take a look at the following video: How to negotiate like North Korea Here is a sampling of the stories that appeared in just the last few days. Similar stories have been appearing month after month, year after year.
Robert Windrem, Senior investigative producer, NBC News
“Thursday’s announcement by North Korea that it could launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the United States in the face of new U.N. sanctions is a predictable escalation of the isolated nation’s increasingly aggressive stance toward Washington over the past year…”
Kwanwoo Jun, KoreaRealTime blog, Wall Street Journal, Asia
“A North Korean man swam successfully across the heavily-guarded inter-Korean maritime border to a South Korean island on Friday, in the first such defection in almost a year…”
“A North Korean mother inside one of the country’s notorious prison camps was forced to kill her own baby, a former inmate said, during a U.N. panel hearing in South Korea that’s ongoing this week…”
Doug Bandow, American Spectator
“Should it be up to Washington — or Dennis Rodman — to rescue ill-fated activists? Kenneth Bae apparently entered North Korea to do good, which in Pyongyang’s view is bad. He ended up in prison. He and his family are calling on Washington to do something…”
Max Fisher, Washington Post
“A new study published in the journal North Korea Review says that parts of North Korea are experiencing a crystal meth “epidemic,” with an “upsurge” of recreational meth use and accompanying addiction in the country’s northern provinces…”
I’ll comment a little further on this last story because it says so much about the country’s immoral and conscienceless ruling clique. The addiction problem is of the regime’s own making and is a story of unintended consequences. Back in the ‘90s when the entire country was on the verge of starvation, the government slightly relaxed control on its northern border with China in order to create a limited black market for smuggling food in across the border. Now, the regime is unable to shut down the market, and the local economy is dependent on it in several ways. North Korea today exploits that black market to smuggle crystal meth into China from its state-run meth factories. The meth trade supplies much of the country’s hard currency since it has almost no legitimate international trade (yes, North Korea is in the drug trade in a big way and even its foreign embassies are heavily involved). Gradually, cheap meth began flowing back into the country through the same black market and is now a big problem because the health care system dissolved long ago. Medicine for all but the elites is expensive or nonexistent, but meth is cheap. So guess what? Cheap meth became a treatment and is now an addiction for many.