Friday, June 18, 2010

Famine: North Korea: In sudden reversal, Kim Jong Il's regime restores marketplaces for food, outside Communist system

Washington Post's reporter Chico Harlan reports from Seoul, South Korea (Jun18,2k10), about an important development in North Korea's internal problem of mass proportion: starvation, outlawed cash markets for food buying and supplying, loss of personal savings in bank accounts due to recent govt actions.

North Korea lifts restrictions on private markets to prevent famine

Bowing to reality, the North Korean government has lifted all restrictions on private markets -- a last-resort option for a leadership desperate to prevent its people from starving.

In recent weeks, according to North Korea observers and defector groups with sources in the country, Kim Jong Il's government admitted its inability to solve the current food shortage and encouraged its people to rely on private markets for the purchase of goods. Though the policy reversal will not alter daily patterns -- North Koreans have depended on such markets for more than 15 years -- the latest order from Pyongyang abandons a key pillar of a central, planned economy.

With November's currency revaluation, Kim wiped out his citizens' personal savings and struck a blow against the private food distribution system sustaining his country. The latest policy switch, though, stands as an acknowledgment that the currency move was a failure and that only capitalist-style trading can prevent widespread famine.

"The North Korean government has tried all possible ways [for a planned economy] and failed, and it now has to resort to the last option," said Koh Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. "There's been lots of back and forth in what the government has been willing to tolerate, and I cannot rule out the possibility of them trying to bring back restrictions on the markets. But it is hard for the government to reverse it now."

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-- Politicarp

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