Print 38 comment(s) - last by DarkUltra.. on Dec 16 at 7:49 PM

  (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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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
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.

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.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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