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  (Source: [North Korean Propaganda Poster])
That would be enough to buy 4.6 million tons of corn

North Korea's missile launch succeeded in putting a satellite in orbit (perhaps thanks to some Iranian expertise) this morning.  But at what cost did the successful launch come?

I. Money Could Have Ended Famine, Claims South Korea

According to South Korean officials in the Ministry of Unification, the launch and a failed attempt in April directly cost $600M USD (mostly for the rocket and engineering expertise), the launch site costs $400M USD, and additional $300M USD was spent on related facilities.  That adds up to a total of a cool $1.3B USD -- a massive sum for the poverty stricken nation.

To put this in context, South Korea says that would have bought 4.6 million tons of corn for the nation, where a third of citizens are estimated to be malnourished.  That would be enough corn, it says, to feed the people in the north for four to five years.

North Korea is home to an estimated 24 million people, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Average household income in North Korea is less than $1,900 USD a year, among the lowest incomes in the world.

North Korea Now
One third of North Koreans are estimated to be malnourished. [Image Source: NK Now]

There is some debate about the true cost due to potential deals between Iran and North Korea, in which North Korea agreed to act as the Middle Eastern nation's weapons test bed (and thus may have received better rates on parts and engineering expertise).  

Further questions on the price figure come in due to the fact that North Korean engineers are known to make much less than their foreign peers, but the exact rate is a topic of current reserach and debate.  North Korea is very hostile, isolated, and secretive to its neighbors (other than China) and the U.S., so it is difficult for foreign observers to get accurate numbers to describe its economy.

II. North Korea -- Proud or Used?

Despite its anti-U.S. propoganda North Korea has expressed of late a desire to be recognized by the U.S. and given aid.  A food deal was in the works, but fell through when North Korea broke promises and launched its failed missile test in April.

The big winner in the missile test may be Iran who is unlikely to face sanctions for its supposed involvement, and appears to have offloaded some of the costs of its weaponization efforts on a far poorer ally.  Average income in Iran, according to the CIA, is $13,200, meaning a single Iranian on average earns as much as nearly seven North Koreans (the average income in the U.S. $48,300 USD, roughly 3.7 times Iran's per capita income, and 25.4 times as much as North Korea's per capita income).

Iran missile launch
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard test launch of missiles is shown here dating back to 2006.  The launch was carried out in the city of Qom, a holy city in the Islamist movement.
[Image Source: AFP]

Iran had allegedly approached Russia in 2009 with a satellite launch request, but was rebuffed.  Since it has focused on its own internal rocket efforts for commercial and military purposes.  The White House and CIA have expressed in recent years the belief that Iran is eager to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could be used to threaten the mainland U.S. and its Middle Eastern ally Israel.

Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh in recent statements denied it was targeting the U.S., but confirmed it was refining designs to fire at Israel, stating, "Israel is our longest-range target."

North Korea contends that regardless of the cost, it is worth it to develop both peaceful space projects and nuclear weapons, which it says it needs to "defend itself" against the U.S.

According to a recent public radio report North Korea's rhetoric has shifted since Kim Jung-un assumed power, taking the fresh stance that failure is (sometimes) acceptable, because as some observers put it, the leader says great nations often fail.  For instance, North Korea in the past only broadcast Olympic events where its team or athletes won the particular match.  This time around, they broadcast the whole event and welcomed home the athletes -- even the losers -- as national heroes (traditionally losers were sent to work camps).

Indeed many expected this unfamiliar new breed of mea culpas from the Asian regime to arrive this week when the rocket launched, given the delays due to technical difficulties.  But instead North Korea surprised observers and succeeded, shifting the question to a new one -- whether the cost of success was worth it.

Source: CNN



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Men with too much power
By heerohawwah on 12/12/2012 7:28:38 PM , Rating: 2
There are a number of documentaries about North Korea. National Geographics: Inside North Korea is good. All you tech geeks know where to find it...

One would hope that over time a countries citizens would rise up and take control, but North Korea appears to be a lost cause. The best thing for all its people would be an all out invasion by the UN or whoever...Until then the North Korean people will continue to starve and suffer murderous death everyday.




RE: Men with too much power
By NicodemusMM on 12/12/2012 7:56:36 PM , Rating: 2
Among other things, two issues with the All-Out-Invasion approach would be:

1) The citizenry would defend against the 'hostile' invasion.
2) Those that didn't would be slain by their own government and/or peers.


RE: Men with too much power
By Pirks on 12/12/2012 8:20:32 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah the most prudent course of action would be to build extensive missile interceptor and long range radar sites around US and Japan, most likely targets for NK nukes. If you regularly test your interceptors and NK knows their ICBM will be shut down, they can waste all the money they wont together with Iran and other Islamist zealots. The only REAL problem we will have in the future is not NK or Iran, it is the newly emerging Islamic Europe. This thing I have no idea how the US and its allies are going to deal with. Here's the real prospect of WW III gentlemen.


RE: Men with too much power
By PrinceGaz on 12/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: Men with too much power
By Pirks on 12/13/2012 5:34:26 PM , Rating: 3
You think UK is the only country in Europe? Travel to France first, see how Muslims are doing there, then we'll talk


RE: Men with too much power
By Penti on 12/13/2012 11:58:48 PM , Rating: 1
Only parts which has been a part of the Ottoman empire has any significant Muslim population in Europe. Plus Cyprus. Those countries are also mostly outside of the EU and Schengen Area. That France has more (native French speaking to begin with) immigrants with Muslim background than UK has is simple, Algeria and the Algerian war and other former colonies. France is still under 10%. I'm not worried about Bosnia and Herzegovina, Azerbaijan, Albania and Kosovo or Macedonia and Montenegro. Neither people from the undemocratic out of control US puppet-regime of Georgia to soon be ousted by it's people. People in places like say Somalia can't get any papers for travel any way as there is no recognized government in it's territories to issue any papers and occupying countries (Ethiopia and Kenya) will not supply them with any identification papers. So they will not be able to travel regardless of their reason to or religion. We keep plenty of people away from EU with illegal means already.

In my country Finns are the largest immigrant population. I guess we should throw them out for being more prone to violence and murder back in Finland than statistics/average are here. Oh, I guess Xenophobia only works against none-whites too bad. Stuff tends to turn into problems when you make them one. Here we have more Christian refugees from Iraq then the US received Iraqis wanting to emigrate there in total. Over 100,000 middle eastern people who have emigrated to us is Christian. It's not like you have any use trying to label groups and ethnicities.

There are plenty of race and urban riots in the US. When you hear about such stuff here it can be about all from 1-12 people involved up to 50 in extreme cases. Worse in UK and France naturally. Here it's a problem even before they set cars on fire. The police (army) hasn't really killed any one by firing on crowds since 1931 here. They came close by shooting an anarchist in 2001 though.


RE: Men with too much power
By othercents on 12/13/2012 10:21:30 AM , Rating: 2
I would have to put an all out invasion being the same as when the Americans took over Okinawa in WWII. In that war more citizens died then all the total military losses. Many Okinawan citizens even took their own lives because they feared being tortured by the Americans. The Japanese Emperor at the time was teaching both the military and citizens that it was better to commit suicide instead of being caught.

This I fear would be the outcome of an invasion on North Korea. Plus, unless we forget, we have been there before.


RE: Men with too much power
By Ammohunt on 12/13/2012 1:40:55 PM , Rating: 4
Been there before fighting China with a president that lacked the will to complete the mission. If such an ill advised invasion were to take place China would not sit by idle. The best course of action is to isolate NK even more.


RE: Men with too much power
By Obujuwami on 12/13/2012 3:08:16 PM , Rating: 2
I think you are partially correct. If you think about it, what do the Islamic states fear from being nuked? Blasted back to the desert? THEY LIVE IN THE DESERT! The US has far more to fear as our lands are green and fertile.

I would think that a WWIII episode would be more prevalent if China got involved...which it thankfully isn't.


RE: Men with too much power
By DarkUltra on 12/16/2012 7:43:29 PM , Rating: 2
One more point to this: Do not think only of the current suffering people of North Korea, but of future generations. How long will NK be in its state and how many more children will die of malnutrition compared to a hopefully one-time invasion.


RE: Men with too much power
By FITCamaro on 12/12/2012 8:06:04 PM , Rating: 3
Hard to rise up when you're starving.


RE: Men with too much power
By headbox on 12/12/2012 10:55:13 PM , Rating: 2
exactly.

Also, those financial estimates are in 1st world dollars. Most of the labor was free, and everything else at Dear Leader Wholesale prices.


RE: Men with too much power
By RufusM on 12/13/2012 3:38:05 PM , Rating: 3
...starving and without weapons because they are banned by the government. It doesn't do much good to bring a knife to a gun fight.


RE: Men with too much power
By lagomorpha on 12/13/2012 8:11:30 AM , Rating: 2
The Vice Guide to travel on North Korea was pretty telling as well. Iirc part of the problem with an invasion is the North has enough artillery pointed at Seoul to do substantial damage before being overrun.


Hold on a sec Micko...
By Amiga500 on 12/13/2012 7:41:45 AM , Rating: 5
Just to give a wild comparison, how many more teachers, school books and upgraded classrooms could the JSF program pay for?

Yes, North Korea is run by a bunch of bad bastarts... but does that give any of us the right to look down our noses at them and dictate what they do? Not necessarily.

There is plenty of sh!t in the western world that could do with cleaning up before we are on a particularly high horse ourselves!




RE: Hold on a sec Micko...
By Dr of crap on 12/13/2012 8:18:38 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly!
We have pletny of homeless, hungry people here that could use money spend on funding solar companies or - (fill in the blank)!

To compare the amount of food that 1.3 billion could buy just doesn't make good journalism.

Come on!


RE: Hold on a sec Micko...
By nafhan on 12/13/2012 1:38:43 PM , Rating: 3
Every country has it's own problems, and every country probably has some project that some of it's citizens feel is a poor use of resources (US absolutely included).

That said, which is worse: leaving a third North Korea's population to starve or not increasing the US education budget by ~2%? Those are the two things you are comparing. From a human rights perspective those things are, I hope you realize, dramatically different.

I have problems, but if I wait to help others until I correct all of them: I will never help anyone.


RE: Hold on a sec Micko...
By Ammohunt on 12/13/2012 1:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
moral relativism just say no..


RE: Hold on a sec Micko...
By Keeir on 12/13/2012 8:06:31 PM , Rating: 2
As a comment.

I would agree 100% until a country begins using/requesting food aid from foriegn countries.

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R40095.pdf
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19107049

If a country is requesting/accepting aid, then they need to respect that Aid is contigent upon outside factors, and people -will- judge them negatively for "wasting" money on negative actions.

(For the people trying to say "there are hungry in America". The scale is significantly different. I can't remember a decade in the past 50 years where 5-10% of the US population starved to death. Hunger in U.S. is different than Hunger in North Korea. In the US we talk about 25% of people not getting enough food without government assistance. In North Korea, the number is more like 70% -after- government "assistance".


RE: Hold on a sec Micko...
By DarkUltra on 12/16/2012 7:49:04 PM , Rating: 2
That others are worse does not make us better. And think of it this way; Such a rich nation like the USA should no-one need to be hungry or homeless. A good democracy and friendly neighbours just makes it harder to swallow for the relative few.


.
By StevoLincolnite on 12/12/2012 5:32:49 PM , Rating: 4
Don't know why they think they need to defend themselves from an invasion.

It's highly unlikely that the USA and it's Allies would invade unless given reason to... And building "Weapons of Mass Destruction" has been enough reason (Whether it turned out to be true or not) to invade a country in the past, so to me it looks like they are just shooting themselves in the foot.

They should also not get foreign food aid, let the people revolt once they have had enough and hopefully become a flourishing democratic society like it's Southern neighbor and help take over the world with Kpop.




RE: .
By ritualm on 12/12/2012 5:50:15 PM , Rating: 2
North Korea has more similarities to a doomsday cult than the worst of dictatorships. Not even Nazi Germany was this bad compared to the one-man circus freakshow at the "DPR"K.


RE: .
By ClownPuncher on 12/12/2012 7:08:15 PM , Rating: 3
It's carefully planned political posturing. You have to remember, these events are told MUCH differently by the local N Korean "news" organizations.


RE: .
By Ammohunt on 12/13/2012 1:43:17 PM , Rating: 2
Much like MSM in America and Europe.


RE: .
By Schadenfroh on 12/12/2012 8:26:30 PM , Rating: 2
Don't worry, plenty of countries will be sending food / fuel aid their way, despite the fact that it will allow their government to divert even more funds to their military.


Inflated figures
By WinstonSmith on 12/13/2012 9:04:05 AM , Rating: 5
"the launch site costs $400M USD"

Bologna. South Korea has every reason to inflate these amounts to exaggerate the threat. Take a look at the satellite photos of that relatively crude, single launch tower site and anyone can realize that there is no way it cost nearly half a billion dollars.

I'm no fan of N. Korea, but all governments lie by nature and this is too obvious to ignore since I see it plastered everywhere. "Be afraid of the pipsqueak little country so continued ridiculous military expenditures can be justified" is the reason for these wild overestimates.




Money Management
By Ristogod on 12/13/2012 10:42:02 AM , Rating: 2
I love how we criticize that they are being wasteful with their money; that it would have been better spent on food as opposed to defense. Exactly how are they different than us with our huge defense budgets and other wasteful spending agendas? Oh, that's right, they haven't convinced the rest of the world to lend them their money as they run out.

Also, I love the pitch at the beginning where it's indicated that the money could have been spent on corn as opposed to virtually any other potential food. Why not rice or something the like? Why the ultra expensive corn? Could it be that big corn is calling the shots here?




RE: Money Management
By InsGadget on 12/16/2012 12:28:09 AM , Rating: 2
Dross.


North Korea; lost cause
By xtort107 on 12/13/2012 7:37:47 AM , Rating: 2
I can understand developed countries launching ballistic missiles, puts them in the big show, it will not help NK no matter weather they develop miniaturized nuclear weapons for "defense". I believe this is some kind of co-operative between NK and Iran to make a delieverable nuclear weapon, the basis for "axis of evil" i guess.

Popular Science had an article a while back that had us developing bunker buster nukes, ones that could destroy any structure that the North Koreans could develop, the only caution was a down wind estimate put Japan at huge risk of fallout, is this what Obama spent extra in the nuke budget to build? (keep in mind this was during the bush admin, im just saying the nuke budget was upped by Obama)




No food, because of US sanctions.
By Valrandir on 12/13/2012 3:41:12 PM , Rating: 2
Its like not that money could be spent either on missile test, or on importing food.

The problem is about all the sanctions put against NKorea by the USofA.
Without those sanctions the people would do much better.




wondering..
By tamalero on 12/14/2012 10:28:06 AM , Rating: 2
Will buying corn really benefit north korea in the short end?
Maybe they will want to enter the satellite business to gain $$$ apart from the nuclear leverage..
who knows..




By PAPutzback on 12/14/2012 3:14:26 PM , Rating: 2
Huge fishing industry provides them with a great source of nutritious sea food. They aren't bloated up and fat on corn and corn by-products like the western world. Who are we to criticize them for throwing up a satellite when we probably put a few up a year just to satiate our need for more useless TV programming.




old saying
By DockScience on 12/14/2012 8:50:05 PM , Rating: 2
Feed a nation with imported corn, and they eat for few days.

Teach a nation to farm, and they eat until the politburo seizes the crops for the army.

But allow a dictator to make and deliver atomic weapons, and he can either take what he wants or blackmail others into giving him what he wants, whenever he wants it.




not bad
By anandtech02148 on 12/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: not bad
By Guspaz on 12/12/2012 7:14:50 PM , Rating: 2
The difference is that NASA's funding wasn't being given by a government that was starving a third of its population to death.


RE: not bad
By NicodemusMM on 12/12/2012 7:47:31 PM , Rating: 2
Nice comparison. Really accurate. A masterful display of logic and reason.

I wonder how many technological innovations will come about by N. Korea's 'space program' and the private companies supporting it. Wait... do private companies even exist in N. Korea? Anyway, of those non-existent innovations, how many will be used to help its citizens or those of other nations? Granted, with the BS the N. Korea citizenry are being fed, they may be willing to sustain such low quality of life. For all we know they think the world is at their doorstep and they have to give up everything for defense. It was not that way with NASA. Yes, there was a perceived threat and the nation rallied behind the cause for the most part, but the U.S. wasn't in negotiations to receive food assistance from anyone because its citizens were starving either.

Out of curiosity, do you even know the reason for the embargoes and sanctions you referenced? Didn't think so.

It looks like they're going to have to pinch pennies even more for the next launch, meal, clothing, or whatever because their illustrious leader is, yet again, pissing in the wind in the general direction of almost everyone that could aid them.


educate yourselves
By poohbear on 12/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: educate yourselves
By Pirks on 12/13/2012 1:54:24 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Muslims are a poor minority in Europe
You haven't been to France recently, have you?


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