June 20, 2012 13:33
Accounts from defectors that thousands of people are starving to death in North Korea's rice bowl of South Hwanghae Province brings to mind a theory formulated by Indian economist Amartya Sen, who won the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics. Sen said mass starvation in a particular region is more closely related to whether the area is ruled by a democratic or autocratic system than whether there is a real shortage of food.
He researched cases of famine in India and Africa and found that there were no instances of mass starvation in democratic nations even during hard times.
Sen explained that in autocratic regimes, distribution of state budgets is not prioritized according to the needs of the people but channeled into wasteful and exorbitant projects designed to extend the rule of a dictator. As a result, even a slight shortage of food leads to mass starvation and deaths.
He cited as a key example the mass starvation in North Korea during the 1990s, and points out that democratization is more effective in preventing mass starvation than boosting food output. Millions starved to death in India's Bengal region under British rule, but such tragedies disappeared after Indian independence.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme projected that North Korea's 2011 crop output would rise 8.5 percent on-year to 5.5 million tons. Bean output rose 10 percent, corn 11 percent and rice 2 percent, so it is illogical to see people starve to death in the country's rice bowl.
According to sources in North Korea, the crop yield last year in South Hwanghae Province was higher than previous years. Until a few years ago the regime had left a certain amount of rice for farmers there to survive, but last year it even sought out rice the farmers had hidden, apparently to raise money for the centennial of nation founder Kim Il-sung and to feed soldiers.
North Korea spent US$850 million on the abortive launch of what it said was a space rocket. That is enough to feed 19 million people for a year. The only way to save North Koreans from starvation is democracy. Without it, all the fertilizer and rice in the world will not save North Koreans from starvation. What must North Korea's supporters in the South be thinking as they watch the tragedy in South Hwanghae Province unfold?
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