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The PJ Tatler

by
Dan Miller

Bio

May 11, 2011 - 9:55 am

This is one of several recent articles dealing with North Korea’s increased use of slave labor from its massive and growing political prison camps to grow poppies in order to make heroin to export for hard currency. It notes,

Chuck Downs, executive director for the U.S. Committee for Human Rights, told Fox News Wednesday that the “expansion indicates that the regime is in deep economic trouble and that the North is desperate to boost its foreign currency reserves by exporting drugs.”

Downs also said the fields surrounding prison camps were never used for growing food because the prisoners, who labor for hours in them, would steal it.

“They would rather grow drugs,” Downs said, referring to the North Korean military, which controls the camps and drug production in the North.

This article provides additional information on the scope and methodology of the heroin initiative.

Just how big the North Korean production of heroin has become is astonishing, according to analysts and intelligence reports, and has been largely overlooked as the international community focused on a bigger issue– the sale of nuclear materials and technology. “It has gotten surprisingly little attention in the last ten years,” according to Bruce Bennett of the RAND corporation.

Because of the secrecy of the regime there are no firm figures on drug profits, but estimates put the earnings on exports of heroin from $500 million to $1 billion annually.

“To put that in context,” Bruce Klingner, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, pointed out that “the total for legitimate exports is estimated at around $1 billion annually.”

North Korea first turned to large scale heroin production in the mid 1990s when the nation’s manufacturing sector collapsed. Kim Jong Il, the nation’s dictator, decided that the heroin was the quicker way to make up for the export losses and ordered all collective farms to dedicate 12 acres to poppy production.

Since then, according Klingner, production has seesawed depending on the success of other exports, like missiles. Even more startling than the state’s involvement in heroin production is its use of its diplomatic corps to beat customs inspections in order to distribute the heroin.

Over the past dozen years more than 50 Korean diplomats or other state workers have been caught carrying drugs into more than 20 countries, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Clearly, the DPRK needs money. Developing nuclear weaponry and maintaining a large military require it; even gifts to party members requires money.

“The regime uses the money to distribute to party members to give them a sense of well being, usually in the form of gifts like color televisions. Last September a huge party meeting was surprisingly delayed because gifts that had been purchased from China, with foreign currency, had not arrived.”

This article states that the United States is considering the resumption of food aid, if the hunger situation is really serious; it is almost certainly really serious, but largely for reasons of the DPRK’s own making. It also notes that

South Korean government officials and analysts have been expecting the U.S. to resume food aid sometime in the future.

But the U.S. has emphasized that it would consider the relations it has with South Korea before it does. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was cited by a South Korean diplomatic source on April 25 as saying she guaranteed President Lee Myung-bak that the decision over food aid would be made with regard to the South’s position.

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If, as appears to be the case, North Korea is using large amounts of arable land useful for food production, as well as slave labor from its political prisons, to grow heroin poppies instead, and would divert at least substantial amounts of any food aid from its malnourished serfs and slaves to its military forces currently, while reserving what remainder it can for that purpose when it elects to go to war with South Korea, we should engage in a bit of “tough love.” We are not in a position to do any lasting good to North Korea’s starving and otherwise pitiful denizens; well meaning but futile attempts to do so by supplying their immediate needs will fail just as they have consistently done in the past. There is no basis for believing, or even hoping, that somehow — even magically — it will now be different.

Perhaps it’s time for the DPRK to apply some of its magic making resources to actual food production rather than to its efforts to bewitch the gullible.

Dan Miller graduated from Yale University in 1963 and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1966. He retired from the practice of law in Washington, D.C., in 1996 and has lived in a rural area in Panama since 2002.
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