Thursday, October 20, 2011

Poverty and Starvation

Do you see poverty and starvation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea? Yes and no.
If you look at articles on the internet or the press you’ll find accounts of people, who wanted to find starving people, but didn’t succeed. This fact does not necessarily mean that there isn’t, but that conditions to find such things aren’t optimal. If you look at full faced “starving” children in these articles, you look at propaganda. If you read about the accusation of cannibalism, you read propaganda. I think, we better leave propaganda to the Stalinist state.
Poverty stricken people in rags, which you are accustomed to from the poor countries of Africa, you don’t see them in North Korea. Actually you see properly clad people, you even see dandified kids visiting the Zoo (I know, you might argue that one only sees the children of the well doing cadre class). You don’t see beggars. You don’t see people starving at the next street corner. What you can see, however, is a society that is much slimmer than in the West, the US, or China. So people generally eat less than the overfed societies. This and the fact that people have to rely on walking and climbing stairs instead of car, public transport, or elevators, might even lead to the conclusion that the people of North Korea are healthier. Might be, might be not – if the well doing are slim, there might be even large numbers of people close to starving. Thought having travelled a couple of hundred kilometres through North Korea in 16 days, I wasn’t able to see these people. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t, it only means that one should be critical about revelations of certain reporters, who think that they can discover starvation on a four day trip.
You might see poverty in buildings that are unrendered like most of the buildings in the city of Haeju. Or in the fact that people have to climb stairs because there isn’t a working elevation due to the lack of electricity – 20th floor might not be funny. You might see poverty in the lack of public transport. You see railway tracks but no train. You drive on highways with hardly any traffic. You see traffic wardens regulating an amount of traffic that doesn’t need regulating – though these women simply look good (OT). You can’t speak freely to people and the people you may talk with like guides or interpreters, however open they are with foreigners, avoid certain topics. No access to the internet, controlled cell phone network. North Korea’s situation is perhaps best described as moving in a traffic circle at the end of a dead end street.

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