Explanations and Lies About North Korea


The BBC World News reported recently on North Korea's devastating food shortage problem. Some six million human beings are at the brink of starvation there!

In this report viewers were told that the World Food Programme, a United Nations agency, stated that 'the food shortages are due to a decline of donations.' Now there is a distortion if one has ever run across one. It is a distortion by the World Food Programme and by BBC World News. With such official United Nations sanctioned declarations and media reports it is very doubtful that the actually causes of the food shortages in North Korea--or anywhere else for that matter--will be seriously investigated and remedied.

In fact, of course, North Korea's food shortages have absolutely nothing to do with the lack of donations. If there are shortages of food anywhere in the world, they have to do with the lack of food production. Donations of food may be relevant in cases of emergency shortfalls that are caused by, say, extreme draught or other natural disasters. To blame lack of donations is akin to blaming the death of a man who is murdered by another on the people who were not there, busy living their own precious lives, to save him from the murderer!

North Korean is not suffering from any natural disaster. It is suffering, instead, from colossal political-economic disaster. And by the UN World Food Programme's failure to identify this as the truth of the matter, this agency, as well as the UN itself, is perpetuating a gross myth that the kind of regime that we find in North Korea is innocent of any wrong doing and, furthermore, that it is people in other countries who are responsible for the starvation of the North Korean population.

How can it be that major international agencies and news services are so eager to hide the full responsibility of the political system of North Korea for its murderous policies? How is it that even after the collapse of the Soviet Union's catastrophic experiment with centrally planned socialism, the horrible famine brought about by the same system in the People's Republic of China, modern officialdom is still hell bent on trying to make respectable the Leftist ideology responsible for it all?

Perhaps we see here the not too subtle workings of academic multiculturalism, the doctrine that proclaims that no matter what kind of system of government or political economy guides a country's public policies, criticism of that system, even if it brings forth the death of millions, must be suppressed because, well, no one can know what system is right, and all are equally valid. This is the kind of story we get from some of today's most prominent social philosophers, for example, the radical pragmatist Richard Rorty. Rorty declared a while back, in a piece for The New Republic on July 1, 1991, that no one can tell whether any system is right or wrong. As he put it, 'Non-metaphysicians [such as Rorty and other right thinking sorts] cannot say that democratic institutions reflect a moral reality and that tyrannical regimes do not reflect one, that tyrannies get something wrong that democratic societies get right.'

Oh no? Well, I bet that political economic systems and public policies that contribute to the starvation of six million North Koreans can confidently be said to 'get something wrong.' But unless officialdom wakes up to this fact and begins to spread the news everywhere that North Korea's centrally planned socialist-communist system is responsible for the starvation there, not the lack of donations, this fact will remain obscured by disinformation.

Still, multiculturalism isn't the full explanation for this terrible negligence about the viciousness of the North Korean system. Indeed, arguably, multiculturalism is itself a pretense, a way to disguise a deadly bias among many intellectuals. After all, these same people who think there is nothing objectively better about capitalism as opposed to socialism do not make this claim when it comes to racism, sexism or Nazism. They did not argue, when South Africa still had a system of apartheid, that this institution was just as good as one that left blacks free.

Instead, the problem is that the bulk of the officials running the World Food Programme and the UN itself are faithful central planners, statists, and North Korea is, in fact, merely a dream gone awry for them, a dream that, nonetheless, must not be disparaged.

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Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.