Insensitive Chinese Tourists Highlight Plight of N.Koreans

      August 07, 2013 12:24

      Chinese tourists are behaving boorishly in North Korea throwing sweets at children as they travel down the streets of the impoverished country in their tour buses or cars, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported Monday. The target of the article was the rudeness and ignorance of Chinese tourists, but many readers were equally struck by the plight of the North Korean people.

      In one photo apparently taken in April last year, a Chinese tourist can be seen handing or throwing something out through the car window to a North Korean adult and three children.

      A similar report in 2008 concerned a group of Chinese tourists traveling by ship and apparently throwing food at North Koreans on an island on the Apnok River which separates China and North Korea. One of the highlights of the boat tour was to throw food at the islanders and watch them eat. The tour was described as a "human safari," a term first coined in India where tourists went around India's Andaman Islands and threw food at the natives, who danced in response. An Indian court banned these tours, but they now take place in North Korea.

      The Bank of Korea estimates North Korea's per-capita income at around US$1,000. But North Korean data are notoriously inaccurate and that estimate is hard to believe. Even leftwing academics put the actual income of North Koreans at less than $300, and it is only the elite in Pyongyang that can make that much money. Also, it is only residents of the capital who get state food handouts. Pyongyang is in effect a Potemkin village built to conceal from the outside world that the rest of the country is starving.

      Already, North Korea ranks at the bottom of the world in terms of the mortality rate for both adults and children. Health checks of North Korean child defectors show that 10-year-old boys are 6.6 cm shorter than their South Korean counterparts on average, and girls are 4.4 cm shorter. One in five North Korean children under five suffers from chronic malnutrition, while two-thirds of the population worry about where their next meal will come from.

      Yet North Korea continues to pour money into its nuclear weapons and missile development and spends the rest building lavish amusement parks and equestrian facilities in Pyongyang, as well as a ski resort in the mountains. The North Korean masses are simply fodder for such frivolity. It is up to South Korea to look for ways of rescuing North Koreans from having to pick up candy Chinese tourists throw onto the dirty streets.

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