08/19/2010, 00.00
NORTH KOREA

Pyongyang on its knees: only potatoes to stave off famine

The capital's population had grown accustomed to a slightly better diet compared to the rest of the country. But the sanctions, the five-year plans and currency reform are beginning to be felt. And the population shows signs of timid protests against the regime.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The population of Pyongyang, the capital of the Stalinist regime of North Korea, is increasingly frustrated because of the price of basic necessities and lack of basic foods in stores, according to former residents, who have fled to South Korea.  They point the finger at the last year’s disastrous currency reform and against the five years economic plan, which the regime insists on continuing.

According to one source, "market prices continue to rise. The population is angry, and complains of these factors. According to some estimates, 60% of the population is dissatisfied with the authorities". On the other hand the inhabitants of Pyongyang, given its proximity to political power, were used to having better access to goods passing through the country: now they have to survive on potatoes.

The same source, who went as far as China in search of food, continues: "Life just won’t return to normal, food distribution no longer works, and the complaints this time are different from what has been heard in the past. In July and August, only potatoes were distributed to workers and other residents of Pyongyang, we are beginning to see real protests against the government".

A further sign of the disaster is ongoing by the privileged classes of society, such as members of the military and national security agencies, which receive limited rations as the rest of citizenship. Until recently, however, their diet was comparable to that of an Eastern European capital in the days of communism in.

North Korea has lived for at least two decades, an untenable food situation. Based on the principle of Juche - the self-sustainability preached by the first dictator Kim Il Sung - the government has pursued economic projects that have proven unsuccessful.

Added to this are the heavy penalties imposed by the international community after Pyongyang’s announcement it was developing a nuclear arsenal, which have in fact eliminated all foreign goods from the market, and the terrible currency reform ordered by the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il last December.

To prevent further defections in the high military ranks, in fact, the dictator has removed two zeros from the currency, eliminating savings and investments. In this way he has forced into poverty even the wretched middle class in the country, throwing it into panic. "Now - says the source - the effect of all this is hitting the capital. But without food, patriotism will not last long".  

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