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[Opinion] Starving Under Socialism

Posted February. 23, 2009 08:11,   


North Korea has expressed strong discontent over President Lee Myung-bak’s Feb. 12 comment at a dinner for the youth committee of the ruling Grand National Party. "If North Korea’s socialism makes its people worry about having three meals a day, the North should abandon its socialist system," he said. The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said the comment on its regime is an insult and mockery to its people.

A great number of North Koreans are known not to eat three meals a day. Last year the Stalinist country sought one million tons of food aid from the international community. Even many of its soldiers are suffering from severe malnutrition because top brass is siphoning off provisions from the army. Jang Dong-gun, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations World Food Program, said, “Six million people (in North Korea) are suffering from hunger.” Millions of North Koreans starved to death in the “March of Hardship” between 1995 and 1997.

Over those three years, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il spent 890 million U.S. dollars to build Kumsusan Memorial Palace, a.k.a. the Kim Il Sung Mausoleum. If the so-called Dear Leader spent a third of the facility’s construction costs to buy two million tons of corn instead, he could have saved millions of lives. Late last year, North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun sought caviar in a visit to Moscow for the Dear Leader, who is known to have a delicate palate. Thanks to Pak’s efforts, Kim held an extravagant feast for his 67th birthday last week. The majority of the North Korean people, who are forced to chant “Long Live Dear Leader Kim Jong Il,” are suffering from malnutrition while Kim fills his stomach with caviar.

On South Korea’s criticism of the North’s human rights situation, the North’s reunification committee said inter-Korean ties will suffer from the South’s complete denial and disrespect of its socialist regime. Regardless of ideology, a government is responsible for preventing its people from starving to death. What is more important than a political system is sufficient provision of food and people’s lives. Amartya Sen, an economics professor at Harvard University, said famine cannot occur in a democratic society because people will share food even in the event of a poor harvest.

Editorial Writer Kim Soon-deok (yuri@donga.com)