Op-eds

Pyongyang's Hunger Games: NYT Op-ed by Prof. Lee

New York Times

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry’s report on North Korea, released last month, contains so many tragic findings that it is difficult to grasp the scale of the crimes described. But the world owes it to the North Korean victims, both living and dead, to focus on a figure buried in paragraph 664 of the commission’s report: $645,800,000.

That is what the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is said to have squandered in 2012 on “luxury goods,” including cosmetics, handbags, leather products, watches, electronics, cars and top-shelf alcohol. In that same year, Mr. Kim also spent $1.3 billion on his ballistic missile programs.

Mr. Kim’s profligacy should be weighed against two other statistics absent from the commission’s report. The first is $150 million. That is what the United Nations World Food Program asked donor nations to give for food and other humanitarian aid for North Koreans in 2013. The second is 84 — the percentage of North Korean households that, according to the W.F.P. and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, had “borderline” or “poor” levels of food consumption in 2013.

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