June 09, 2003

WHEN THE GWEILO DIARIES LINKED to this report of starvation in North Korea I was -- well, skeptical is too strong a word, given what other news has leaked out of there, but I wasn't convinced enough to run with it. But now The Telegraph is reporting the same thing. Excerpt:

Aid agencies are alarmed by refugees' reports that children have been killed and corpses cut up by people desperate for food. Requests by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to be allowed access to "farmers' markets", where human meat is said to be traded, have been turned down by Pyongyang, citing "security reasons".

Anyone caught selling human meat faces execution, but in a report compiled by the North Korean Refugees Assistance Fund (NKRAF), one refugee said: "Pieces of 'special' meat are displayed on straw mats for sale. People know where they came from, but they don't talk about it."

The NKRAF, an aid body set up in China five years ago which helps to smuggle food and medicines into parts of North Korea off-limits to WFP officials, interviewed 200 refugees for the report.

Oddly, however, the article speaks of starvation in North Korea as essentially a natural disaster, rather than a government-made one. But I'll stand by one prediction I made a while back: When North Korea falls, and it will, and when the extent of the horrors there becomes widely known, many South Korean politicians will face a terrible reckoning as their complicity with evil becomes clear. Maybe they think the same thing -- that would explain why they're trying to keep things quiet, wouldn't it?

UPDATE: Multiple perspectives via reader email: From Leo Strauss: "If all values are relative, then cannibalism is a matter of taste."

From Amartya Sen:

One remarkable fact in the terrible history of famine is no substantial famine has ever occurred in a country with a democratic form government and a relatively free press. They have occurred in ancient kingdom and in contemporary authoritarian societies, in primitive tribal communities and in modern technocratic dictatorships, in colonial economies governed by imperialists and in newly independent countries run by despotic national leaders or by intolerant single parties. But famines have never afflicted any country that is independent, holds regular elections, has opposition parties and permits newspapers to question the wisdom of government policies.

From Samizdata:

From Tim Blair:

Cannibalism is increasing in North Korea following another poor harvest and a big cut in international food aid, according to refugees who have fled the stricken country.

The reporter is being polite. What he means to say is “Following years of communism.”


ANOTHER UPDATE: Dean Esmay offers some history. And here's a book on cannibalism in China during Mao's famines.