North Korean Reforms Fail to Address Country's Poor

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North Korean citizens continue to struggle to afford rising food prices despite reports by aid groups, diplomats and others that the country has started showing signs of modernization.
Specifically, the capital city Pyongyang has been regarded by some academics as pushed toward a more functional model of society.
Citizen opinions differ from these statements. A reporter with the NYT interviewed several citizens who were unwilling to share their full name for fear of repercussions.
A 50-year old woman named Mrs. Park told the NYT, "People were hopeful that Kim Jong-un would make our lives better, but so far they are disappointed."
Ten months have passed since Kim Jong-un replaced his father Kim Jong-il as leader of North Korea. In that time food prices have steeply risen. The Telegraph reports that the price of staples--such as rice--have more than doubled between June and August 2012 according to North Korean defector groups.
The contrast in lifestyles between rich and poor North Koreans is apparent in Pyongyang, where 52-year-old pig farmer Mrs. Kim told the NYT of her struggle to maintain her pig farm and a secret enterprise of trading homemade liquor with wholesale purchasers.
"Why would I care about the new clothing of government officials and their children when I can't feed my family?" Kim asked. She explained her and neighbors' struggles combatting malnutrition that has become a persistent part of life for many citizens.
Kim Jong-un approved a defiant rocket launch this April that closed down food aid offers from the United States. Millions remain unemployed as shortages of fuel, electricity and other materials leave factories closed. Some organizations blame speculation as individuals hoard staples in preparation for the release of reforms to market prices, reports the NYT.
Stricter border patrol controls have been reported under Kim Jong-un, making more difficult the escape of some North Koreans to China and South Korea. Measures have included the addition of 20,000 new guards and the installation of miles of electric fences along the border, Open Radio for North Korea told the NYT.
Cell phone restrictions still confine calls to only those made within the country, though outside information has trickled in to North Korea in recent years including the secret distribution of South Korean soap operas. NYT interviews with North Koreans unveiled a current of distaste toward societal inequalities that have risen in current years. These conversations suggested a shift in citizens' acceptance of North Korean propagandists' declarations of the importance of "juche" or self-reliance.
The impact of Kim Jong-un's reforms to North Korean markets is not yet concretely established. The difficulty of access to sources in the country is a factor in determining the current state of prosperity of the majority of North Korean citizens.

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This page contains a single entry by Sara G published on October 15, 2012 11:42 AM.

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