No goodies for North Korea

A U.N. effort that would ban exotic goods to North Korea’s Kim divides South Koreans.

File this one under the heading of “Might help, couldn’t hurt”, given that Kim “I’m So Ronery” Jong Il is notoriously fond of high-end imported luxuries, is reported to use them as a control device over his top echelons, an embargo of such items wouldn’t directly affect the starving proletariat… and god knows, we’ve tried cutting off supplies of everything else. This has the additional benefit of being a personal slap against the person or persons most directly responsible for the dire condition of the country-sized concentration camp. I don’t doubt that whoever thought up this embargo list is feeling a certain amount of grim satisfaction. He or she has been able to at least inconvenience a dictator who lives in luxury, while the ordinary citizens must embrace a life of such strict Stalinist austerity that after a mere half-century of it they are noticeably physically shorter than their cousins in South Korea.
When I was stationed at Seoul’s Yongsan Garrison, I had an outside, part-time job at Korea Broadcasting, editing the English-language simulcast of Korea Broadcastings’ evening newscast. I regularly worked with a handful of Korean newscasters and technicians who were fairly fluent in English, and one of the things we often talked about was how real the threat from North Korea really, really was. Since Seoul was in artillery-range of the DMZ, these were discussions of more than just a strictly academic interest. One of the things often pointed out was how isolated, and how terribly deprived the Northerners were known to be, even then, while South Korea and Seoul particularly was a cornucopia of consumer goods; ranging from the cheap trash sold from street kiosks to the very highest level of luxury. We speculated on how the discipline of invading Northern troops would hold up in the face of all of it, agreeing that maybe the highly trained North Korean special forces might be able to hold their discipline past the first super-market… but they would be few, and the regular Nork troops, given fifty years of lies and deprivation would take one look, forget their orders and commence to loot. They had been without everything, for so long, they would not be able to carry on their mission. Well, that was what they thought likely, anyway.

Sgt. Mom is a freelance writer and retired Air Force NCO who lives in San Antonio and blogs at

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