Thursday, December 10, 2009

Daily Kor for December 10, 2009: Bosworth blackout

Loads of North Korean news today, which is ironic considering that perhaps the biggest thing happening in North Korea — the talks between Washington envoy Stephen Bosworth and whomever he's supposed to meet in Pyongyang — are virtually shutting out the press. And that means either tough talk is being made or ugly deals are being brokered. I hope it's the former.

Anyhoo, I've begun to wonder if the H1N1 outbreak in North Korea will end up being another exacerbating factor in Pyongyang's efforts to maintain control following the highly unpopular currency revaluation and the dissent it has apparently caused. Rumors spread faster than rationality, and the factor of speed can go up when people feel vulnerable and that their lives are at stake. What would happen if people knew that the Pyongyang regime was hoarding Tamiflu for itself and not for the people, especially if a weakened and unvaccinated populace started getting H1N1 infections — and dying — in numbers similar to or greater than what we saw in Mexico?

Certainly I don't wish death and suffering on innocent people like that, but I wonder how perceptions of a real or imagined super-pandemic (accompanied by actual deaths) would change the calculus between being more likely to die if you do nothing than if you do something.
  1. South Korean aid group says the North Korean won has plunged 96% since the government revaluation (Bloomberg)
  2. UN Food and Agriculture Organization says North Korea is expected to suffer a serious grain shortage this year, requiring the import of 1 million tons to cover needs (Reuters via WaPo)
  3. Talks in Pyongyang between US envoy Stephen Bosworth and DPRK officials in media lockdown (CNN, Yonhap, Joongang Daily)
  4. WHO says it is working closely with North Korea on H1N1 outbreak (Yonhap); South Korea lowers its own alert level from red to orange (Yonhap)
  5. South Korea to ban all indoor and outdoor smoking in public places starting in 2011 (Yonhap, Joongang Daily)
  6. South Korean construction firm STX to build 200,000 homes in Ghana over the next six years at a cost of $10 billion (BBC)
  7. National Unification Advisory Council says South Korea should invite North Korea as an observer to next year's G20 meeting (People's Daily, Yonhap)
  8. Taliban sends email to international media warning South Korea of "bad consequences" if it deploys troops to Afghanistan (Xinhua, Yonhap)
  9. MBC president and seven other executives agree to resign (Joongang Daily)
  10. Connecticut-based charity Plastic Toxin World Rescue, marking ten years of systematic confiscation of hundreds of thousands BPA-containing plastic bottles in remote rural areas of third-world countries, estimates they may have saved millions of the world's poor from prostate cancer in their senior years (AP via WaPo)

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