Monday, April 18, 2011

News From the North

Springtime is creeping northward on the peninsula, and so is reaching the DPRK about now, hopefully giving its impoverished masses a few moments of joy while they enjoy the sun on their backs.

Alas, this bright sunshine may be obscured for many in the North: in addition to "fresh U.N. sanctions for a nuclear test in May and flooding a few months ago that wiped out farmland in a country that already faces chronic food shortages (Reuters)", NASA Earth Observatory posted this image of widespread forest fires:

[The Aqua] satellite captured this image of smoke pouring from dozens of fires (marked in red) in North Korea. These fires could be related to agricultural burning; however, the huge plumes of smoke blowing eastward from some of the coastal fires suggest that those blazes are forest or other wildland fires. Much of the Korean Peninsula’s precipitation falls between June and September during the “wet” monsoon phase. Therefore, these fires are burning at one of the driest times of the year.

The Reuters story reports that no official word has come from DPRK media, but today's Korea Times online has this:
“This year there are many reports of forest fires in North Korea. Residents here are waiting for it to stop spreading by itself. They are also criticizing those who are trying to put out the fires,” reported a North Korean radio broadcast.
According to the media, residents are happy about these fires because the land will be cleared for farming and firewood will be readily available to them.

Gotta wonder about the logic (or English) there: burning down a tree doesn't create firewood, but fired wood. Further, the clearing of land for agriculture is meaningless in an extended cycle of drought and flooding when you lack modern means of irrigation. Like, say, North Korea.

Of course, it's not the residents saying those things, but the party cadres, whose job it is to prove that in North Korea, shit doesn't stink.

Speaking of which, the Daily NK has a story about the spread of Paratyphus in Pyongyang--a bacterial disease associated with poor sewage, flooding and civil engineering failures common to the Third World. Like Pyongyang, sadly.
Since the disease is bacterial and highly contagious, treatment is best done in isolation, while the area where the disease breaks out should be thoroughly disinfected.
However, a country with limited resources such as North Korea struggles to deal with such things. The source explained, "Paratyphus normally spreads through water and defecation, and has spread quickly now because the water pipes here are old and there is a lack of water treatment chemicals.”
“There is a water treatment plant in Nakrang district but there are no chemicals so the authorities are at a loss as to what to do," the source went on.
Nevertheless, the North Korean authorities are doing what they are best at; working to control passage through areas where the disease is currently spreading in an effort to hinder its movement. According to the source, "Public Security Agency guard posts have been set up all over."
In addition, the authorities are allegedly only approving travel for people carrying certificates confirming that they have been vaccinated against the disease. The vaccination and certificate are both officially free; however, this is not really the case in corruption-ridden North Korea.
Therefore, since the cost of the certificate is expensive and obtaining it troublesome, many small traders and other travelers are said to be bribing their way past the guard posts with money or cigarettes.

North Koreans deserve better than this. That is an obvious statement, but one that the Chinese government and the Kim regime's other enablers need to recognize. Also, something more South Koreans need to become more passionate about...

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