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The truth about North Korea: it’s booming

As North Korea tests another long range missile reports from North Korea confirm that far from being in crisis its economy is in the midst of a boom.

Alexander Mercouris

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Both the US and Russia say that the Hwasong-14 missile which was launched today is of intermediate range, and is not as North Korea claims an intercontinental ballistic missile (“ICBM”).  It seems that whilst the missile can cover all of Alaska it does not have the range to reach the rest of the continental United States.

Though this is almost certainly true – and is in accord both with what Chinese and Russians specialists say about the North Korean ballistic missile programme – the fact that the very first test of such a powerful and sophisticated missile appears to have been completely successful highlights North Korea’s growing mastery of ballistic missile technology.

This is all the more impressive because rocket technology upon which ballistic missile technology is based is by general acknowledgement one of the most difficult and complex, requiring a highly capable chemical and materials industry, and very high standards of manufacturing and of quality control, to be made to work effectively.

This highlights a point I have made previously: whatever else it is, North Korea is not and cannot be the economic basket case and technological backwater which is described in the Western media

North Korea’s success in pursuing a ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme shows North Korea must have a significant industrial and technology base, which must encompass fields like advanced chemistry and nuclear physics.  North Korea’s success in making its own smart phones and tablets and in developing its own apparently extensive intranet (the “Kwangmyong“) suggests it must have a reasonably sophisticated computer and IT industry it can draw upon.  Pictures of Pyongyang, which appear from time to time in the Western media, show it to be a highly modern even futuristic city, a significant fact in itself even if Pyongyang is a show-case which is not representative of the whole country.

Nonetheless despite these obvious signs of industrial and technological strength and modernity there remains a widespread view that North Korea is a primitive basket-case of a country, with its people struggling in conditions barely above subsistence.

Frankly that doesn’t seem fully consistent with the known facts.

A recent article in of all places the Financial Times takes this point much further.  It turns out that not only is North Korea far from being a basket case, but its economy is actually growing and at a blistering pace

At a time when the US is trying to squeeze the Kim regime through new sanctions — pressure that is likely to increase as a result of the death of US student Otto Warmbier who was jailed in North Korea — the economy is showing signs of vitality that could make it even harder to exert leverage on Pyongyang.

Any analysis of the North Korean economy has to proceed with some caution. Reliable economic data for the isolated nation are scarce and estimates vary wildly. Forecasts for 2015 growth in gross domestic product per capita ranged between -1 per cent by the Bank of Korea in Seoul to 9 per cent from the Hyundai Research Institute.

“The challenges of accurately computing North Korea’s GDP are many and are derived principally from a paucity of credible macroeconomic data,” says Kent Boydston, analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. But for close watchers of the reclusive nation, the signs of change are clear. Notably, wages have surged, as has the growth of a moneyed class known as the donju. “The changes are obvious when you go to Pyongyang. There is vehicular traffic and the city has a skyline like never before,” says a former US intelligence official, pointing out the growing use of previously rare items like solar panels and air conditioners……..

The result, according to North Korea watchers such as Prof Lankov, is “a significant improvement in living standards” and economic vibrancy, most evident in the flourishing number of restaurants and markets. Known as jangmadang, these markets — both official and unofficial — have proliferated rapidly in recent years and are now increasingly the norm for purchasing consumer goods.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 defectors by the Korea Development Institute, a state-run think-tank in Seoul, more than 85 per cent of North Koreans now use these markets for food, compared with 6 per cent who rely on state rations.

Wages have also appeared to increase exponentially in recent years. According to the institute, salaries in the official state sector have increased more than 250 per cent in the past 10 years to about $85 (more than 75,000 North Korean won) a month, while wages in unofficial “side” jobs, such as private enterprises, have boomed more than 1,200 per cent. Lee Byung-ho, then head of South Korea’s intelligence service, estimated earlier this year that 40 per cent of North Korea’s population is now engaged in some type of private enterprise.

The Financial Times article highlights an important point about North Korea.  The negative growth of -1% of per capita GDP claimed by the Bank of Korea in Seoul, which is so obviously at odds with the true facts, reflects the uniformly negative reporting of North Korea by South Korea’s media and institutions.  Many of the worst stories which circulate about North Korea, including the regular tales of power struggles and purges within the North Korean government, of corruption by Kim Jong-un and his entourage, and of economic failure and deprivation across the whole country, originate in South Korea, which has an obvious interest in making these claims.  They are nonetheless accepted far too uncritically in the West, where they are regularly reproduced as if they were axiomatically true.

If North Korea really is achieving per capita annual GDP growth rates of 9% as claimed by the Hyundai Research Institute, and if salaries really have grown 250-1,200% over the last 10 years, then North Korea has the fastest growing economy in the industrialised world, and its people are seeing the fastest growth in real incomes in the world.

That no doubt explains the growing self-confidence of the North Korean leadership and the genuine popularity (as opposed to personality cult) of Kim Jong-un, which even some Western observers are reluctantly admitting.

One of the great problems of the West is that it always seem to struggle to recognise or adjust to a change of reality in any particular given situation.

Just as the West imposed economic sanctions on Russia in 2014 in the completely mistaken belief that Russia’s economy is a house of cards – which is what it was in the 1990s – so the West still believes that North Korea is a basket case one step away from total collapse, as it also was in the 1990s.

The result in both cases is a fruitless search for sanctions in order to tip things over, and anger and bafflement when they fail to work.

In the case of North Korea, what the West believes is the ‘magic bullet’ – Chinese sanctions – will never happen on anything like the scale the West wants or which would make a significant difference.  Given that this is so the thing to do is what the West has always and consistently refused to do and which the Chinese and the Russians are urging the West to do: open direct talks with Kim Jong-un.

In the meantime, whilst the West drags its heels about doing this, Kim Jong-un and North Korea continue to grow stronger, and the military balance in the north east Pacific continues to shift slowly but steadily in their favour.

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Melotte 22
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Melotte 22

China is obviously behind it. Regardless of China’s critics toward North Korean missile program, there is no doubt both countries have come closer as allies against the hegemon’s meddling in that part of the world. China is investing heavily in North Korean economy and we are witnessing results already. It will be even more obvious in coming years.

pablo rom
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pablo rom

And I believe Russia also are backing them.

Daniel Rich
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Daniel Rich

How many North Koreans are executed when a [NK] missile test fails?

tjoes
Guest
tjoes

Not near as many as were executed on 9/11 when Mossad, Saudi’s and US Neos’s manufactured that “unifying event” in NY.

Le Ruse
Guest
Le Ruse

Even I would say less, than the live lost on the USS Liberty ??

XRGRSF
Guest
XRGRSF

I would think, none.

The six phases of an American project:

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Awards for the non-participants

Traiano Welcome
Guest
Traiano Welcome

Not as many as there were vietnamese children murdered in Mai Lai …

tjoes
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tjoes

Imagine that….advancement without the Jewish debt money… that is sucking the life out of the west and making it debt slaves.

Le Ruse
Guest
Le Ruse

Do they grow poppies in North Korea ?? If no ?? Then they are safe from Democracy ??comment image

tiger
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tiger

US “democracy” can be a heavy burden.

Le Ruse
Guest
Le Ruse

White man’s burden ?? Murican’s burden ??

hvaiallverden
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hvaiallverden

There are some conflicts that are created by outside forces whom have split an nation in two half, and Korea is one, same people on both sides, with an history I bet beets them all, incl China, ancient empires have come and gone, but Korea have stayed. if any Korean looks on what the North have managed to accomplish, despite everything incl embargoes and so on, to the present, you should notice that, and be proud, because this shows what I know about the Korean soul, witch is also manifested in the south, both peoples are from our nature given… Read more »

XRGRSF
Guest
XRGRSF

Thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed your post.

FlorianGeyer
Guest
FlorianGeyer

The US Empire , like all empires before it, reach a plateau and then decline rapidly as corruption, greed and military expenditure increase and the quest for stealing other nations property is hastened. With all the Low Hanging Fruit having been stolen by the US the dangers increase and I hope I will see a chastened and reformed US in my lifetime.

James Willy
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James Willy

I LOVE Kim. Thank you Sir for standing up to yankistan and the scum from izrae-Hell.

Whatever
Guest
Whatever

Divide and conquer, the formidable weapon of the west (under the control of who?). We have seen them in

Korea
Middle East (Shia/Sunni, even though they lived together for thousands years)
Pakistan/India (Brits did with Hindu/Muslim)
……… …
Now we are witnessing some internal divisions:

Diversity (Racism, multi-culti all together)
Gays/Non-gays
Gender Bender

If you think my last 2 divisions are too much, wait 10 to 20 years.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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