In the early 90’s after the collapse of the Soviet empire, many communist bloc countries checked their hole cards, and when realizing they had none, began the long march to economic reconfiguration. China was one such country; to put their $$ house in order meant having to sever the umbilical cord to one of its client states, North Korea, who because of its own sparse resources and production capability was dependent on China for agricultural subsidies.
To China, this was an administrative action. To North Korea, it was the trigger for the great famine of the 1990’s, a devastating humanitarian catastrophe of near-incalculable scale.
Initially the international community responded by delivering food aid to supplement imports. Kim Jung-Il, leader at the time, responded by blocking the aid to the more desperate regions, then jiggled the books to finance construction of a $790 million mausoleum for his father, Kim Il-Sung. Against this, North Koreans did what they could to survive – foraged for insects or plant roots to fill their bellies, sifted through garbage if any could be found, traded in black markets or grew illegal gardens – but in the end it was never enough. Starvation claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, millions, and the toll still mounts.
In 2011 when Kim Jung-Un stepped in to fill the “Great Leader” shoes, he stepped-up the burn-rate, spending $650 million on luxury goods…clothing, alcohol, cosmetics, electronics, little-man toys like yachts and relic autos, and, for all we know, silicone implants to make more chubby his cheeks, in deference to ancient Korean proverb “Boy with chubby face-cheeks win heart of girl with chubby aft-cheeks.”
Chubby-boy’s burn-rate eclipses that of Imelda Marcos’, another symbol of profligacy and excess who thirty years ago, before North Korea’s own troubles began, had amassed a collection of 1,220 pairs of shoes before dissident Corazon Acquino booted Imelda and her despot-husband Ferdinand off the Phillipine islands.
On a scale of 1 to 10 on the brutality meter…10 being the worst…the Marcos’ legacy rates about a 2 when compared to the Kim’s 10. If North Koreans ever expect to shut-down the Kim’s reign of terror, the answer is simple: they need a bigger boot. Question is, who'll step in to wear it?