Tag Archives: North Korea

Question of the Day, North Korea World Cup edition

How many North Koreans who have been permitted to attend the World Cup will attempt to defect? Alternatively, how difficult is it for the North Korean government to maintain tangible leverage on those attending?

For some historical parallels, consider defectors from the Soviet Union, many of whom were athletes or competitors in international competitions of some kind.

Here is one estimate of the number of North Koreans in attendance (~40).

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Markets in North Korea

Horrifying. From the Chosun Ilbo:

Rare footage of markets and other scenes of North Korean society offers vivid testimony of the major changes that have happened in the reclusive country since a botched currency reform in December last year. The Chosun Ilbo and the Caleb Mission unveiled the footage Tuesday.

It shows an open-air market and train station on Onsong, North Hamgyong Province in October 2009, just before the currency revaluation, and in March this year. Onsong boasted a relatively developed market due to its thriving trade with China, which is just across the border over the Duman (or Tumen) River.

Footage taken in October shows a bustling market, but the same place in March is almost deserted, with only a few traders selling goods. In October, the market was overflowing with food, clothes, shoes, cooking oils, squid and other goods. But three months after the currency debacle, only a few bags of corn are visible in the stalls. Products that were part of South Korean aid shipments to North Korea can also be spotted.

I’m unable to embed the video for some reason, but the clickthrough is worth it. Consider how much human suffering must have accompanied closing this market. For instance:

Violence is growing in North Korea amid a worsening food shortage after the disastrous currency revaluation last December, according to sources in the hermit country.

One person was killed by armed guards on Feb. 16 when a group of people attempted to rob a food train at Komusan Railway Station in Puryong-gun, North Hamgyong Province, defector group North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said. The attack came on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s birthday after a disastrous currency reform sent food prices skyrocketing.

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