North Korea is spending $850 million (£533 million) on the imminent launch of what it claims is a rocket to put a satellite into orbit, an amount that would feed millions in the impoverished country.The cost of the rocket, revealed in restricted documents seen by The Daily Telegraph, would have been able to buy 2.5 million tons of corn and 1.4 million tons of rice – helping to alleviate poverty for millions.
North Korea is attempting to legitimise the rule of 28-year-old Kim Jong-un, who is assuming the titles of his father, Kim Jong-il, who died in December, and was on Wednesday named first secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party.
The country announced yesterday that it was ready to launch the rocket. The launch is due to take place between today and March 16.
Ignoring international warnings from the US and China, its key ally, the launch is also tied to the regime’s promise to its people that the year 2012 would see North Korea develop into “a strong and prosperous” nation.
To elevate Kim Jong-un to the status of “Great Successor” and put him on an equal footing with the “Dear Leader,” the regime is investing heavily in “idolization projects”.
The documents reveal that coal exports from North Korea earned the regime $1.14 billion in 2011, which has been used to finance the projects.
The interior of the Kumsusan Sun Palace, where the embalmed bodies of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are on display, has undergone extensive remodelling and at least 20 statues of the late leader have been erected in rural parts of the country.
In the Mansudae District of Pyongyang, a complex of 3,000 apartments reserved for the regime’s elite is benefiting from a $140 million makeover. An estimated $50 million is also being spent on a new facilities at the Rungrado Theme Park, which will boast a dolphin show pool, an enlarged amusement park and new swimming pool.
The World Food Programme had to launch an emergency operation in April 2011 to provide enough food for 3.5 million people to survive until the crops were harvested. It was the biggest intervention since the 1990s, when as many as 3.5 million people from a total population of 22 million died from starvation or hunger-related illnesses.
In June of last year, cereal rations were down to 150 grams per person, per day. The government’s rations are less than half of the daily calorific requirements of 68 per cent of the 16 million people receiving food aid.
One in every three children is chronically malnourished or stunted, according to the WFP, while one quarter of all pregnant and breast-feeding women are also malnourished.
In times of hunger, the North Korean government turns a blind eye to markets – “jangmadang” – where peasants are able to sell any surplus they have or food aid they have received, but clamps down again when the situation improves.
This serves to limit the amount of food people have access to and keeps them physically weak and no match for the relatively well-fed military.
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