Monday, January 16, 2012

Back in the DPRK

Guess we know why the North Korean masses recently gathered to wave their arms and shout praises to the "Great Successor," Kim Jong-un. They were trying to stay warm. reports that even the elites are feeling the chill this winter:

Many of the residents of luxury apartments in Pyongyang are leaving their homes for the heated homes of relatives or other warmer locations.

An inside source who visited Pyongyang at the end of last month said in a phone interview with the Daily NK today, “People previously had no supplies of water so didn't have drinking water and could not go to the bathroom without difficulty, but now that there are heating problems too the people are inevitably leaving their homes. This year, many people are locking their homes and leaving for warmer places.”

The source said, “When I went to Pyongyang just three years ago, the people still stayed in their apartments even without heat, but now half of them are gone, they went to East Pyongyang where the pre-1980s homes are heated with charcoal briquettes.”

The source added, “Even until last year, the residents in these apartments spent the whole winter season there with cotton blankets on the floor all day long, filling pint bottles with hot water to warm their blankets when they slept; however, as the situation has gotten worse this year whole families cannot take any more and have chosen to leave their homes behind.”

Obviously, Daily NK isn't exactly regime-friendly, but reports of widespread shortages are common-place in The Worker's Paradise. More than a decade ago, we saw imagery of North Korean commuters, forced to ride atop rail cars because fuel and electricity shortages limited the daily train schedule. Other reports indicate that the average citizen of the DPRK subsists on little more than a bowl of rice each day, and if they're lucky, they get protein two times a week. No wonder the average South Korean is now 3-4 inches taller (and 30-40 pounds heavier) than his counterpart up North.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the Daily NK report is where the latest electricity shortages are occurring. The folks abandoning those "luxury" apartments are elite of North Korea, the very constituency that Kim Jong-un must placate to consolidate and maintain his hold on power. During the last years, of his father's rule, the faintest signs of regime opposition began to emerge in North Korea, despite all the implements of a modern police state. Now, with the elites suffering some of the same deprivations as the masses, there will be renewed speculation about Kim Jong-un's ability to retain control of a decaying dictatorship, the political-military equivalent of those apartment buildings on Gwangbok Street.

One final thought: if conditions are that bad in the "upscale" neighborhoods of Pyongyang, you can only imagine what the peasants are enduring.

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