Last week’s guest speaker was David Meadows, a retired engineer. He gave an interesting , but bleak account of North Korea. He became interested in North Korea after his father, a British Naval Officer had visited the country. It is called the Democratic Republic of Korea. David said that it is neither democratic nor a republic. It is a brutal dictatorship. No dissent or criticism of the regime is tolerated. Dissenters are executed and that covers three generations—their parents and children are executed as well. The country is slightly larger in area than Tasmania, but has a population of 25 million. It has limited arable land, so struggles to feed its people. Malnutrition and famine are widespread. The population is ageing, there are more people over 60 than under 30. Most North Koreans are under five feet tall, due to malnutrition. If couple have a child, the man will deny himself food so his wife and child can have more. Consequently many men die of malnutrition. Many women with babies try to flee into China by crossing frozen rivers. If successful, they are often kidnapped and married to Chinese men. Due to the one-child policy in China, there is an acute shortage of women. Some women manage to escape to South Korea via Malaysia and Thailand.
All industry is government owned. There is very little activity outside Pyongyang. David said that the country is very quiet , with little traffic and industry noise outside the capital.
The military is the main employer. Compulsory military service lasts for seven years. The country has a standing army of 700,000 and reserves of 1.2 million. The country’s main export is military hardware and its principle foreign exchange earnings come from the wages of North Koreas employed abroad, mainly as laborers on construction projects.
David was motivated to help North Korea when he discovered that babies and young children were sleeping on wet concrete floors in orphanages. They had no beds or blankets. His organisation, the Troas Trust, has provided around $45 million worth of aid to North Korea. The organization has now been shut down by the Australian government.
The present leader, Kim Jong-un, has ignored his undertaking to President Trump to cease the country’s nuclear weapons and missile program. Underground nuclear tests have been suspended due to rock fractures, that it is feared might reactivate a 1000 year-old dormant volcano. One encouraging sign is that recent military parades no longer include missiles.