Chinese truck drivers are
increasingly set upon by thieves in North Korea, who will jump on the back of a
moving truck, and steal goods by simply grabbing stuff and throwing it off to
accomplices running behind the vehicle. This used to be quite common in South
Korea in the 1950s and 60s, because the country was so poor. The thieves were
called "slickee boys." American troops always had to have
someone in the back of a truck, even an empty one, to discourage such thieves.
North Korea, until recently, had no such problems because the police were
everywhere, and quick to punish stuff like that. But now, cops will look the
other way, as along as they get a share of whatever is stolen.
May 31, 2007: Russia is now enforcing the UN
ban (of last October) on supplying North Korea with materials that can be used
to make missiles and nuclear weapons.
May 27, 2007: In the north, the rice planting
season usually begins on May 20th, but this year, it was officially started on
the 5th. This allowed officials to conscript students and adult government
workers earlier, for a few days or weeks of farm work. With a small bribe of
cigarettes, alcohol or food, you could get yourself, or your kid, out of it. If
too many people offered bribes, the labor quota could be met by sending the
police to places where the unemployed usually hung out, and round them up for a
week of unpaid farm labor. Officials find the bribes so profitable, that they
have been declaring periods of "voluntary farm labor" at all times of
the year, in order to generate more bribes. The people sent to the collective
farms (which are very inefficient in the best of times) are given something to
do (which allows the farm workers more time to spend on their private gardens,
where food is grown for sale in farmers markets).
May 25, 2007: South Korea has halted food
shipments to North Korea until the North Korean nuclear reactor is shut down.
This will cause problems up north, where the government has been making a big
deal about the imminent arrival of food from the south. Meanwhile, South Korea
launched the first of its King Sejong class destroyers. These billion dollar
warships are comparable to American Aegis destroyers, and are far more advanced
than anything North Korea has. North Korea responded by "test firing"
one of its three ton, 110 kilometer range, NX-1 anti-ship missiles (based on a
Russian design from the 1950s.)
May 23, 2007: An increasing number of
protests from China has forced North Korea to close the Heungnam Pharmaceutical
plant. This facility produced illegal drugs, namely Methamphetamine (more
commonly known as "ice" or "speed"). The North Korean
factory was producing the stuff for $1,400 a pound, and selling it to dealers
or smugglers for two to three times that. While there are some users in North
Korea, there were far more people who could afford it across the border in
China. The heavily guarded border with South Korea (the DMZ) was, in contrast,
shut tight. The drug dealers split their sales or smuggling profits with North
Korean police and border guards who assist them.