Wednesday, December 5, 2012

North Korea, missile launch is worth 2 years of food

North Korea is believed to have finished assembling a rocket on the launch pad on Wednesday, making a launch early next week the likeliest scenario. The North announced it will launch the rocket between Dec. 10 and 22 to put a satellite into orbit. The assembly of the first, second and third-stage boosters at the launch pad in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province was completed. It has now spent an estimated US$2.8-3.2 billion making weapons of mass destruction -- $1.1-1.5 billion on nuclear weapons development and $1.74 billion on missile development. With that amount of money, the regime could have bought 9.33-10.66 million tons of corn at recent trading prices, feeding 24 million North Koreans for 31 to 36 months. A study of the physical condition of North Korean defectors aged 19 to 29 shows that they are on average 8.8 cm shorter than their South Korean peers and 14.3 kg lighter. North Korea requires 210,000 tons of food aid next year. The food situation has not worsened drastically from last year's 410,000 ton shortfall, but many deaths from starvation are reported, and even soldiers are suffering from malnutrition. This is because the regime has diverted food to Pyongyang and the ruling elite, who are considered to be to prop up young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s still-shaky regime.
Yet amid this abject misery, North Korea spent US$850 million just to fire a long-range missile in April of this year, enough money to buy 2.5 million tons of corn from China which could have fed 19 million North Koreans for a year. It recently spent another $330 million to build giant statues of nation founder Kim Il-sung and his son, former leader Kim Jong-il, as well as an amusement park modeled after a Swiss theme park.
These tales of starvation in North Korea proves that famine often occurs not from a lack of food but from abusive mechanisms of state control in distributing food.

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