Thursday, March 22, 2007

North Korean Economy Watch

This is my new favorite website. It's called "North Korean Economy Watch," and it's an amazing repository of information on how that screwy country "operates." I'm really interested in things like this. That is - every economic and political system ultimately compiles down to an implementation in terms of how people live and what they do from day-to-day. So I'm fascinated by systems that seem obviously broken but nevertheless manage to solider on. North Korea is definitely such a place. For anyone interested in politics, it's the place to watch - because I will be shocked if it doesn't collapse within the next 15 years. Supposedly, it reached a kind of point of no return in the late 1990s. There was a massive famine that pretty much broke down the state food distribution system, and this was a huge blow to the functioning of the nation's economy. In the old days, you had to hold a government job to feed yourself because the only way to get food was to spend food coupons at government-owned stores. But that system has completely broken down thanks to a period of months in 1998 where the government was simply unable to get food to people. (Nearly 3million are estimated to have died in the famine.) Now that people have become self-reliant, it's hard to imagine how they'll go back to micromanaging literally every minute of every day of every citizen's existence. Anyway - this blog goes into a bit more detail about what day-to-day life is like there. Recommended.