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Hey, Kim Jong Il, how you doin'?

Recent pictures of the reclusive leader suggest the answer is "pretty good."
North korea kim jong il 2011 05 19Enlarge
A combination photo shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il posing on Aug. 4, 2009 (left) and again with a Russian delegation on May 17, 2011. The photo of Kim Jong Il (right) published this week by state media shows the North Korean leader looking comparatively healthy compared to two years ago when he appeared aged and frail seated alongside visiting former U.S. President Bill Clinton. (KCNA/Reuters)

It's between harvests in North Korea, and the masses are hungry.

Or are they?

Skeptics say the North is always short on food and that this year's harvest was actually slightly better than last year's.

The North may very well be trying to stockpile rations before the 2012 anniversary of the state founder's birth, they say. North Korea traditionally gives out extra rations to mark special occasions.

The attached pictures of Kim Jong Il hint that there is at least plenty of food on his table.

He looks rather sickly in the 2009 shot on the left, which he probably was since it wasn't long after he suffered a major stroke and a doctor proclaimed he had but three years to live.

But on the right, you can see he's back to his podgy self.

He's also gone back to wearing heels, incidentally, in order to appear taller than 5'3".

Word on the street, though, is that while the Dear Leader may be on the mend, there are at least 6 million people starving in the nation he rules, according to the U.N.

A woman who lives on the edge of Pyongyang, interviewed by the Daily NK, said she believed that since February about 20 people in her county of about 200,000 people have died of starvation.

"The price of rice looks likely to stay the same or rise, and so, until around June 10th when the potatoes are gathered, the numbers of starving people is likely to rise," she said.

Claudia von Roehl, the World Food Program director in Pyongyang, said North Korea was left "highly vulnerable to a food crisis" and urged South Korea to send aid.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/kim-jong-il-north-korea-hunger