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Although the majority of North Korea does not have much in way of electricity at night, Kim Jong-il has no problem navigating the Internet.  (Source: Global Security)
Kim Jong-il claims to be the world's Internet expert; Al Gore jealous

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il met with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun this week in the North Korean city of Kaesong. This meeting is only the second ever meeting between North and South Korean leaders.

One topic of conversation during the meeting put forth by Roh was a request that South Korean companies operating in an industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong be allowed the use of the Internet.

The response from the Dear Leader, according to Yahoo! News, was, “I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired.”

Kim went on to say, “If that problem is addressed, there is no reason not to open [web access].” Kim did not elaborate on the "many problems" caused by opening Internet access to all of North Korea, though clearly the intention of Roh's suggestion is to increase North Korean exposure to South Korean and Western influence.

North Korea explicitly prohibits its 23 million citizens from accessing the Internet and mobile phones outside of government research groups. South Korea, by comparison, is one of the world's most digitally connected countries.

However, given the secretive nature of just about everything in North Korea, it's been difficult to even ascertain just how "connected" Kim actually is. Satellite photographs of North Korea at night reveal very few lights, indicating the country does not have a very high capacity for electricity, let alone computers or Internet.

What is known, is that Kim and the ruling party has a definitive taste for all things Western. Kim's son, Jong-nam, was arrested and expelled from Japan while trying to enter Disney Land in 2001.  Late last year, the U.S. imposed a ban on all luxuries originating from the U.S. destined for North Korea, including the Great Leader's beloved iPods.


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RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By Obadiah on 10/6/2007 3:21:51 PM , Rating: 2
ALL famines are issues of affording food.

It's been pretty conclusively shown (to the effect of winning the Nobel prize for economics a few years ago) that famines only happen when the rulers are not answerable to the people.

The rulers never have problems acquiring all the food they want, famine or not, because they are rich. So they are immune to the short-term consequences of famine unless there is another force, like a free press or a real election. So, being immune they don't take it seriously enough to fix the problems until the long-term consequences finally come around an affect their standard of living.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By Ringold on 10/6/2007 9:26:41 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm.. I'd have to look but if I had to guess I would say that their was sufficient food for the population in the 30s in America if it were distributed differently such that none would be hungry through the depression. However, North Korea would physically not have sufficient food stocks for the population under any distribution method if not for food donations.

Though I won't dispute anything you said really, since you covered yourself beautifully by saying it occurs when the rules are not answerable to the people.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By Obadiah on 10/7/2007 3:13:14 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'd have to look but if I had to guess I would say that their was sufficient food for the population in the 30s in America if it were distributed differently such that none would be hungry through the depression.
Indeed and that is why the great depression was not a time of real famine.

quote:
However, North Korea would physically not have sufficient food stocks for the population under any distribution method if not for food donations.
I'm pretty confident that North Korea would have enough food stocks for the population if they invested in agriculture rather than their self-serving military-industrial-complex.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By masher2 (blog) on 10/7/2007 1:22:03 AM , Rating: 3
> "ALL famines are issues of affording food..famines only happen when the rulers are not answerable to the people.."

Nonsense. The Great Irish Potato Famine occurred due to a mold that decimated the staple food for the nation. It killed at least a million people...and it had nothing to do with economic cycles or rulers "not being answerable to the people".

Contrast it with the Great Depression, in which food was not only abundant, but actually being physically destroyed to buoy prices, while millions of people tightened their belts due to the inability to afford full rations.

It doesn't take a Nobel prize in economics to see the world of difference between these two situations.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By Obadiah on 10/7/2007 3:05:46 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Nonsense. The Great Irish Potato Famine occurred due to a mold that decimated the staple food for the nation. It killed at least a million people...and it had nothing to do with economic cycles or rulers "not being answerable to the people".


Really? On what basis do you draw that conclusion? The effects of the mold were first seen in Belgium not Ireland. In fact, potato crops all across Europe were affected in the same proportion. Why then was Ireland the only one to experience famine? According to you, it had nothing to do with Imperial England's self-serving rule of the country at the time. You'll find little support for your opinion among modern historians and economists.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By masher2 (blog) on 10/7/2007 1:23:58 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The effects of the mold were first seen in Belgium not Ireland. In fact, potato crops all across Europe were affected in the same proportion. Why then was Ireland the only one to experience famine?
Ireland was not "the only one" to experience hardship, but it was struck much harder than the rest of Europe, for the simple reason that in 1845, Ireland was primarily a one-crop nation, depending upon potatoes not only to feed its own people, but as its primary cash export crop.

Irish tenant farmers grew potatoes, period. Other European nations were agriculturally much more diversified. Furthermore, that diversification allowed them to destroy diseased plants when first noted. Irish farmers, on the other hand, used stricken plants from the 1845 harvest as planters for 1846. That, culminated with an unseasonably wet spring (ideal conditions for the spread of the disease) meant nearly the entire 1846 crop was destroyed, to a degree far worse than the rest of Europe.

Could Britain have done much more to alleviate the results? Of course. But blaming the famine itself on British rule is sophomoric ignorance.

> "You'll find little support for your opinion among modern historians and economists. "

On the contrary, while many propound British complicity in exacerbating An Gorta Mor, you'll be hard-pressed to find a single historian who doesn't recognize the root cause was the blight itself.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By Jellodyne on 10/7/2007 2:30:22 PM , Rating: 2
> Could Britain have done much more to alleviate the results? Of course.

Way to lose the arguement -- This is a situation where the Brittish gobernment was not answerable to the Irish people, and as you say, could have done more to help.

> you'll be hard-pressed to find a single historian who doesn't recognize the root cause was the blight itself.

'Root' cause, I get it. In good times there is no need for the government to help. If there was no blight, there would have been no famine, duh. The issue here is whether the Irish people could have worked out some relief if they were in charge of their own government.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By masher2 (blog) on 10/7/2007 3:08:35 PM , Rating: 3
> "Way to lose the arguement -- This is a situation where the Brittish gobernment was not answerable to the Irish people"

I don't think you understand what the argument is. Answerable to the people or not, anytime a nation loses 90% of its primary food staple, there's going to be a humanitarian disaster. This isn't the 21st century we're talking about, with fast shipping, abundant food stocks, and a population eating a rich and varied diet. This is 1845, with 3 million peasants subsisting on potatoes as their only food source, a crop that, year after year, continued to suffer the effects of the worst blight then recorded in history.

The claim was made that this famine was no more than a conspiracy of British rule. That is false. A larger, better-coordinated relief effort from Britain certainly would have reduced the death toll...but people would have died regardless. This was a natural disaster, and a very large one.

There is a clear and distinct difference between initiating a disaster, and exacerbating a pre-existing one. One can argue, with a good deal of success, that British rule contributed to the effects of the potato famine. But blaming it entirely upon government action is foolishness.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By Obadiah on 10/7/2007 6:02:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The claim was made that this famine was no more than a conspiracy of British rule.
Really? The only person I see making that claim is yourself.

The claim I made was that famines only happen when the rulers are not answerable to the people.

quote:
Ireland was struck much harder than the rest of Europe, for the simple reason that in 1845, Ireland was primarily a one-crop nation,
They became a one-crop nation under British rule, in large part due to British-imposed laws forcing the subdivision of lands over the generations to the point where potato farming was the only viable option for most farmers.

quote:
There is a clear and distinct difference between initiating a disaster, and exacerbating a pre-existing one. One can argue, with a good deal of success, that British rule contributed to the effects of the potato famine. But blaming it entirely upon government action is foolishness.
Foolishness that only you would attempt because no one else has made that argument. Easy for you to joust at windmills, fun for us to watch.

British indifference is what built the dependency on potatoes in the first place and British indifference is what prevented alleviation of the effects when that crop went sour. In other words, British indifference is what turned an otherwise mild agricultural problem -- as demonstrated by the effect on the rest of Europe -- into a catastrophic event.


By masher2 (blog) on 10/7/2007 8:02:41 PM , Rating: 3
> "The claim I made was that famines only happen when the rulers are not answerable to the people."

That's pretty much the same statement, now isn't it? You blame the famine on British rule, and dismiss the actual cause.

If you're trying to now argue that, had British policies been such that the Irish never developed a dependence on potatoes in the first place, then yes, quite obviously the famine would have been averted. That, however, is a statement so fatuously facile as to be utterly meaningless. It also ignores the fact that potatoes were not a randomly chosen crop. Acre for acre, they provide much more calories than other crops. Poor Irishmen could not afford to cultivate other foods, not without having access to a much larger land base.

Had Ireland been self-governed at the time, the famine still would have ocurred. It may have been somewhat less severe...it very well may have been worse (Britain did, after all, send at least some relief measures). But it still would have happened.

The truth is that in contemporary times, most famines are driven by politics and economics, not natural causes. That's simply because modern technology allows us to grow many times the food we actually need, and to avoid most agricultural disasters.

However, this wasn't true throughout most of human history. Nearly all famines were the result of crop failures, driven by changes in weather, insect infestations or plant diseases, or other natural causes.

And don't think we're immune to that today. A large meteor strike or other calamity could easily disrupt weather patterns for months or years, causing billions to starve. If that happens, it won't be because governments are not "answerable to the people". It'll be the simple fact of too few calories harvested for too many mouths.


RE: Kim has a reason to be proud
By sinful on 10/7/2007 3:09:08 PM , Rating: 2
The potatoe famine WAS all about economics.
Potatoes were the "cash crop" of Ireland at the time.

The main issue was the country's main export was suddenly non-existant and, in the absence of any exportable goods, they could not afford to import goods (such as food).

This should be obvious - you can't live off of just potatoes, they're just starch.

The equivalent for the US would be if the tobacco crop had failed when it was the big cash crop in the southern US.
A crop failure would have meant farmers wouldn't have tobacco to trade/sell/barter for other food staples, such as corn, wheat, etc. or ANY product for that matter.


By masher2 (blog) on 10/7/2007 4:41:56 PM , Rating: 3
> "This should be obvious - you can't live off of just potatoes, they're just starch."

Wrong. Three million peasants in Ireland can and did subside on nothing but potatoes. They're not just starch; they also contain protein and Vitamin C. They're one of the few monocultures one can live off of indefinitely. Combined with an occasional bit of milk for calcium, one can live off them your entire life...and many people did.

In fact, that was one of the primary problems...the relief grains that England shipped to Ireland were *not* foods one could live off entirely, and the starving peasants fed nothing but those grains soon developed scurvy and other health defects.


By AlmostExAMD on 10/9/2007 4:13:44 AM , Rating: 2
"you can't live off of just potatoes", ummm your wrong, that's pretty much all i eat.
In terms of human nutrition, starch is by far the most important of the polysaccharides. It constitutes more than half the carbohydrates even in many affluent diets, and much more in poorer diets.


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