July 7, 2010

HOW DO YOU ASK A MAN TO BE THE LAST NORTH KOREAN TO DIE FOR THE MISTAKEN REFUSAL TO USE TACTICAL NUKES?:

Papers reveal Nixon plan for North Korea nuclear strike (Chris McGreal, 7 July 2010, The Guardian)

According to newly revealed government documents, Nixon is even believed to have ordered nuclear bombers to be put on standby for an immediate strike after North Korean jets downed the American plane as it flew over international waters collecting electronic and radio intelligence.

The documents, obtained by the National Security Archive in Washington after a freedom of information request, describe the plan codenamed Freedom Drop, which called for "pre-co-ordinated options for the selective use of tactical nuclear weapons against North Korea".

Surprisingly, the contingency plans predicted that – depending on the scale of the nuclear strike – there could be as few as 100 casualties and no more than a few thousand.


Starving and desperate, North Koreans have nothing left to lose (John Garnaut, 6/05/10, SMH)
NORTH KOREA'S recent history is written in the stunted bones of Wilson Im. The 29-year-old defector scraped together enough corn to stay alive during his adolescent years but not so much that he might reach the height of either of his parents. He stands out on the thriving streets of Seoul because he is barely 150 centimetres tall.

Im's stature was an advantage in his homeland because it meant he could survive on fewer calories. His father died before he was born. His mother and three elder brothers probably all perished from starvation and malnutrition, although it is possible one brother remains alive inside the country's gulag. Im's family was unlucky, but not exceptional. The most sophisticated estimates suggest North Korea lost about 1 million people - nearly 5 per cent of its population - in the peak famine years that struck in the mid-1990s. [...]

Barbara Demick, in her new book based on interviews with defectors, Nothing To Envy, Ordinary Lives In North Korea, writes how survival is directly related to an individual's capacity to evade or ignore the country's totalitarian strictures. The armies of secret police are as arbitrary and brutally active as they ever were but can no longer compel the same Orwellian conformity. Faced with the choice of possible jail or certain starvation, North Koreans have broken down stifling restrictions on travel, trade and initiative.

Survivors learnt to cook the inner bark from pine trees, tend their own private vegetable gardens and peddle goods and food in street markets or on the black market. They learnt to beg, steal, prostitute, bribe and wade across the icy Tumen and Yalu rivers in their thousands into China.

Chinese villagers along the northern border told the Herald of North Koreans plundering their livestock, tools and any other objects not nailed down. They told of women crossing the river to trade backpacks full of soy bean paste for luxuries like nail clippers, shoes and rice. Wilson Im survived his adolescent years in South Pyongan by scavenging aluminium pots, pans and cutlery, of which his bauxite-rich neighbourhood had relative plenty. He would pack them in his school bag, and stow away on south-bound trains to trade for rice on the flatter and more fertile fields closer to Pyongyang.

Lately the regime has been battling to reimpose its tight-fisted control by restricting street markets and launching a campaign against imported Chinese goods. It has slowed the refugee traffic to a trickle by increasing patrols.

Refugee activists in China told the Herald they had grown reluctant to help arrivals because they could no longer tell a genuine refugee from a North Korean secret agent who had starved themselves to infiltrate their networks. North Korea presents itself as a nation of brainwashed robots. But its citizens cannot help but contrast their current misery with the world they hear about from returned refugees and traders, or with the relative abundance of the 1980s.

''The people are well aware of their relative and absolute deprivation,'' says Peter Hayes, a frequent visitor to North Korea who runs the non-profit Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.

Kim Jong-il's utopian fantasies are not as convincing as they used to be. Even soldiers, about one in five of the working-age population, and who chew up a quarter of the country's GDP, are often stunted and incapable of focusing on much beyond their own survival.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 7, 2010 5:51 PM
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