Famine In North Korea Essay

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What do you think of when you hear the word “famine”? Do you think of natural disasters, of unpredictable tragedy, of innocent lives lost? Tragedy and death are inherent to the concept of starvation on a large scale, but the nature of some famines may have as much to do with politics as it does with the environment. What I expected to uncover as I began my research on the 1994-98 famine in North Korea was food shortages on a massive scale as a result of terrible growing conditions, extreme climates, unpredictable and unpreventable circumstances, for the most part. Admittedly, my knowledge of famine was limited to what I knew of the countryside of pre-communist China, where the most sustenance provided by the land the bare minimum was, and any number of external changes negatively effecting growth of or access to crops could equal devastation for entire regions. With that as my frame of reference, I was surprised by the uniquely political circumstances behind the famine in North Korea. The famine that killed 2-3 million in the 1990's was more closely tied to its independence from the southern half of the Korean peninsula it had once shared, to the fall of communism and the Soviet Union, than to any singular natural disaster. The millions that died did so as a result of their government prioritizing its independence over their survival, its budget over their sustenance. North Korea's famine was born of 1950's conflict, fueled by 1990's politics, and sustained by human error and hubris from within. North Korea is notorious as the “Hermit Kingdom”. Defensive and secretive to the point of paranoia, its history as well as its present conditions remains shrouded in mystery. What little we do know can be murky at best. The central govern... ... middle of paper ... ...ntal to the disaster. Climate, conflict, isolation, and corruption culminated in millions of lives lost, surely with no small amount of pain and suffering endured. Though international intervention can only help to the degree that authorities in North Korea will allow it, we are not left entirely without recourse. It is too late now to undo the damage of the North Korean famine, and although power has since changed hands, the country remains famously isolated. If, however, we tell the story as best we can, and deny ourselves the comfort of closing our eyes when faced with such a colossal tragedy, then perhaps in the future we find a solution. Silent are the Koreans who perished, and silent still are the authorities that chose seclusion over security. If we wish to prevent this from happening again, we must not let their silence be our silence as well.

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