As Kim Jong-Il wonders if placing Kim Jong-eun in charge of the Juche biscuit making facilities was a wise idea, further reports of widespread starvation emerge from the Hermit Kingdom.
Yonhap covers the testimonies of former DPRK soldiers who defected to the South. One, Paek Hwa-seong recounts that he was conscripted into the military, he was 1 m 55 cm (5 ‘ 1 “) and 42 kg (6 st 5 lb).
Already, he was some 12 cm or 5 “ below the average height for South Korean men: from studies of refugees and defectors, it appears than North Koreans born since the Korean War are, on average, shorter than their Southern counterparts.
Within two years, his weight had dropped to 31 kg (4 st 8 lb). Compared to that, a 21 year old soldier of the same height who defected this month was built like a bear at 46 kg (7 st 3 lb). The man surnamed Kim had walked across a mine-field without a map rather than return to starvation.
As bad as serving soldiers have it, civilians are in a worse situation because they are at the mercy of starving and armed soldiers who regularly steal their food.
As Christine Ahn of the Korea Policy Institute wrote:
I went to North Korea as a peace activist. North Koreans were living in very difficult conditions. Eight-year-old children were loitering around the hotel, shaking because of hunger. Even soldiers were extremely thin.
One thing that surprised me was the mental strength of the North Koreans. I strongly felt their pride and urge to preserve their system.
Kim Jong-il spends some $10 millions per year on his health care.