Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Feeding the Rich

Kim Jong il's private train.
The Chosun Ilbo reports on the luxury homes for North Korea's elite. Kim Jong il alone has 33 villas in the mountains and alone the beaches, all with manicured lawns and the occasional man-made lake. In addition, the batty old man owns 6 exclusive trains with as many as 19 private train stations, often located within his own compounds. Other high-ranking party officials enjoy similar luxuries. $150m USD is being spent on various luxury homes for Kim Jong un alone, both in Pyongyang and outside the city near hot springs.

North Korean poverty.
Will it be possible to undergo a gradual shift in both economic structure and style of government given this entrenched system of irresponsibility? Do the rulers have any real interest in improving their country? Or is their current ability to live like kings off the hardship of their subjects too cushy a position to give up? Will North Korea need a revolution to cast off the shackles of such absurd excess at the top? 

For all the positive indicators we've seen lately of economic reform, social indicators like these are jarring. While I'm sure North Korean leadership has a genuine interest in improving their country, those that benefit from the status quo will fight tooth and nail to maintain their position. North Korea's conditions have long been ripe for revolt, kept in check only through brutal reciprocity and nation-wide propaganda. Should the country continue its slow steps towards reform, these traditional lids on public upheaval will weaken. 

What happens to a revolt deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?*
*Modified with permission from the ghost of Langston Hughes


  1. Great poem by the way. I've read it before way back in American Lit I think. What is the title?

  2. "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes.