Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea

By Jasper Becker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
North Korea’s Economic Collapse

The first time Lee Min-bok, a North Korean agricultural expert, saw a man dying of hunger was in 1987 when he was on a research trip to the North East. That was eight years before North Korea appealed to the world for emergency food aid. Many lives would have been saved if only the North’s leadership had been willing to admit to the economic crisis. Lee, a dour and austere man in his forties, is bitter for other reasons.

When I met him in 2003, he had been in South Korea since 1995 after a hair-raising escape and an odyssey through China and Russia. Now he was still trying to make his voice heard. In contrast to the countless foreign economists and agricultural experts who glibly parroted Pyongyang’s lame excuses for the catastrophe, Lee’s six years of research in the countryside concluded that the perennial food shortages had little to do with natural disasters or shortfalls in foreign aid after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

“The problem was not outside factors, nor our farming skills, but the whole economic system,” he said. Brushing aside friendly advice to toe the line, he spent six years travelling about the country hunting for ideas on how to raise food production. “I was always inspired by Kim Il Sung’s slogan that ‘Communism means Rice.’”

Agriculture was not a sector that attracted ambitious men but Lee still thought he could make his mark. In 1985, it was clear to him that a breakdown of the food distribution system was undermining the whole economy. That year Lee happened to arrive at a food depot in a small town just as the

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Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Rogue Regime - Kim Jong IL and the Looming Threat of North Korea iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface: Rogue State ix
  • Rogue Regime xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Famine and Flight 20
  • Chapter 2 - The Kim Dynasty 40
  • Chapter 3 - The Making of a God King 64
  • Chapter 4 - Slave State 85
  • Chapter 5 - North Korea’s Economic Collapse 101
  • Chapter 6 - Kim Jong Il’s Court 124
  • Chapter 7 - Kim Jong Il—the Terrorist Master 146
  • Chapter 8 - Nuclear Warlord 165
  • Chapter 9 - Kim Jong Il—the Reformer 190
  • Chapter 10 - The United Nations and Genocide 209
  • Chapter 11 - Kim Dae Jung and the South Korean Way 228
  • Chapter 12 - Grappling with a Rogue State 249
  • Afterword 266
  • Notes 275
  • Bibliography 287
  • Acknowledgments 293
  • Index 295
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