The first of my two Friday night posts on North Korea was partially sourced from a link in a tweet shared by Shel Israel (the naked guy who lives in Twitterville). I tweeted Israel about the link, and he responded:
@empoprises If you want to understand how rotten the N. Korean regime really is Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick.
Now Israel is no right-wing saber rattler - after all, he did visit Chinese bloggers in 2008 (as Ontario Emperor, I wrote about that visit here). So I wanted to see what the Demick book was about.
I found a Los Angeles Times article on the book, written by Art Winslow earlier this year. Even the brief article by Winslow suggests that this is not a simple story:
The country's 23 million inhabitants contend not only with extreme privation in a land of rusted train tracks, exceedingly sporadic electricity and chronic, life-threatening food shortages, but also do so under an information blackout in a police state apt to whisk inhabitants off to labor camps or worse at the slightest provocation.
The corruption in North Korea makes Bell, California sound like a model city:
Defectors who claim firsthand knowledge report that Kim Jong-il skims from the profits to fund himself, his nuclear program and to ensure the loyalty of elites, and that "the military is also sending trucks to state farms to haul away as much as a quarter of the annual harvest for its soldiers," as well as posting guards there.
The solution to the problem is not simple, because so many issues are intertwined:
In its way, and graphically, this book demonstrates that global issues of nuclear proliferation, free expression and human rights are inextricably intertwined in North Korea....
But I think that I was just as disturbed with the advertisements that graced the article.
I forget who said it, but someone said that a good advertisement doesn't appear to be an advertisement, but appears to be information. When we perfect our algorithms, it is possible that the ads that we see will be so targeted to our very needs that we won't mind them. However, we obviously aren't there yet.
Google, you have GOT to get people to improve your advertising algorithms. A picture of a stylish shoe does not belong in an article that includes the material above plus stuff that I didn't quote about children starving to death. Even with my warped sense of perspective, the placement of that ad was just a little too much.
P.S. I subsequently found an entire website, http://nothingtoenvy.com/, devoted to the book and its topic. Recommended.
P.P.S. Amnesty International USA has a page on North Korea, which mentions, among other things, that prisoners may be punished for "forgetting the words of patriotic songs." Oh, and if you think that the migrations from Mexico to the United States are a major issue, consider the migrations from North Korea to China:
As the Chinese government considers all undocumented North Koreans in China as economic migrants, they live in fear of being caught and forcibly repatriated to North Korea. Virtually all those forcibly returned to North Korea have faced up to three years in a prison camp where they have been subjected to forced labor, torture and other ill-treatment. China continues to deny the UNHCR access to the North Koreans in their territory.
P.P.P.S. Off-topic, but not as off-topic as a fancy shoe advertisement: If you're looking for my July 2008 post on Israel, FastCompany.TV, Loren Feldman, Robert Scoble, and comment moderation, look here.
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