When a government bans funerals because they are too depressing, you know it is in trouble. North Korea is in very serious trouble. It is entering the second year of a famine caused by severe flooding, which destroyed 890,000 acres of cropland (CT News, Nov. 11, 1996, p. 96). Add to that the failed agricultural policies of the Soviet-style government, and you have an isolated country of 23 million people down to a ration of half-a-bowl of rice per person per day.
There are reports that many communities are without dogs and cats, because pets have been consumed for food. There are even isolated reports of cannibalism. To supplement the meager ration of rice, people are eating a weak gruel made from tree bark. And some experts predicted that by the end of April the country's food supply could be completely depleted, resulting in mass starvation.
We are reading very little about this on the front pages of our newspapers, however. North Korea is a closed society with no reporters to record for the world the people's desperate plight. Besides, North Korea is the "other Korea," one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world—a country that reminds many Americans, Christians included, of a nagging past we would like to forget: of a war we couldn't win, in which 33,651 Americans lost their lives, and of a Cold War that we would call "history" were it not for tenacious pockets of communism like this one.
The U.S. government's initial response to the crisis, therefore, has been tepid. Typically, in a famine like this the U.S. supplies one-third of the food needed, according to World Vision. But the U.S. has supplied only 1 percent of the food aid North Korea says is needed.
"People find ways of surviving the first ...1
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