This sordid tale ends with an escape, the only successful one ever from a North Korean labor camp:
[His mother Jang] never talked to him about her past, her family, or why she was in the camp, and he never asked. His existence as her son had been arranged by the guards. They chose her and the man who became Shin's father as prizes for each other in a "reward" marriage.
Single men and women slept in dormitories segregated by sex. The eighth rule of Camp 14 said, "Should sexual physical contact occur without prior approval, the perpetrators will be shot immediately." A reward marriage was the only safe way around the no-sex rule. Guards announced marriages four times a year. … Shin's father, Shin Gyung Sub, told Shin that the guards gave him Jang as payment for his skill in operating a metal lathe.
After their marriage, the couple were allowed to sleep together for five consecutive nights. From then on, Shin's father was permitted to visit Jang a few times a year. …
The guards taught the children they were prisoners because of the "sins" of their parents but that they could "wash away" their inherent sinfulness by working hard, obeying the guards and informing on their parents.
It gets better:
One day in June 1989, Shin's teacher, a guard who wore a uniform and a pistol on his hip, sprang a surprise search of the six-year-olds. When it was over, he held five kernels of corn. They all belonged to a slight girl Shin remembers as exceptionally pretty. The teacher ordered the girl to the front of the class and told her to kneel. Swinging his wooden pointer, he struck her on the head again and again. As Shin and his classmates watched in silence, lumps puffed up on her skull, blood leaked from her nose and she toppled over on to the concrete floor. Shin and his classmates carried her home. Later that night, she died.
On a hillside near Shin's school, a slogan was posted: "All according to the rules and regulations." The boy memorised the camp's 10 rules, and can still recite them by heart. Subsection three of Camp 14's third rule said, "Anyone who steals or conceals any foodstuffs will be shot immediately." Shin thought the girl's punishment was just. The same man continued to teach Shin. In breaks, he allowed students to play rock, paper, scissors. On Saturdays, he would sometimes grant children an hour to pick lice out of each other's hair.
At age 13, it got worse, after he ratted out his mother and brother for trying to escape (they were both executed):
… The papers explained why his father's family had been locked up in Camp 14. The unforgivable crime Shin's father had committed was being the brother of two young men who had fled south during the Korean war. Shin's crime was being his father's son.
Shin's cell was barely large enough for him to lie down. Without windows, he could not distinguish night from day. He was given nothing to eat and could not sleep.
On what seemed to be the morning of the third day, guards wordlessly entered Shin's cell, shackled his ankles, tied a rope to a hook in the ceiling and hung him upside down. …
Kids labor with their mothers (unless, of course, they get executed, and you get tortured):
… At 16, it was time for a permanent job. Shin's teacher handed down assignments without explanation, curtly telling students where they would spend the rest of their lives. More than half of Shin's class were sent to the coalmines …
Which leads me to legacy media coverage of the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan. I assert that it may be moral to be concerned about this, but it is unethical for the legacy media to make it even a secondary focus of their concern. This suggests that it may be immoral to be personally swayed by their coverage.
The issue here is that the legacy media coverage is tantamount to equating a potential disaster with an actual one.
A real disaster had happened. Excessive focus on a potential disaster at that time is ethically wrong.
Obviously, I was really “sticking my head through the noose” on this one.
A year later, here’s what we know.
One government survey of 10,468 people from three towns at high risk—Namie, Iitate and Kawamata—was released in late February. Among them, 58% are estimated to have received less than one millisievert of exposure, and 95% less than five millisieverts. Just 23 people, including 13 nuclear workers, were assumed to have been subjected to more than 15 millisieverts.
By comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans are exposed, on average, to three millisieverts of radiation per year from natural and man-made sources. Japanese safety rules allow a nuclear worker up to 100 millisieverts a year …
Last time I checked, the 20K people who died in the tsunami are still dead.
Steven Johnson makes a connection between the coffee house culture and the Age of Reason:
His point is that in the 17th and 18th centuries England changed from a culture that was drunk during the daytime to one that was caffeinated.
That’s an interesting point that I’m going to have to add to my lectures about how economic growth began before the industrial revolution.
I have two additions.
First, I think there’s an issue of economic serendipity here. People drank all day at that time because the water wasn’t safe to drink. They didn’t understand the mechanism, but there were clear medicinal reasons for a lot of beer and wine (remember that spirits were in their infancy at this point).
Yet, people had the technology to boil their water. The thing is, they didn’t recognize the advantages of this. There’s an unusual research project there for a Ph.D. student: why exactly wasn’t this discovered. Because what’s interesting is that they did learn to boil water to make a mild drug: coffee or tea. So it clearly took a little extra marginal benefit to convince people to drink hot liquids, but not too much.
Secondly, there’s a general point that is specifically relevant to where I teach: relatively dry Utah (pun intended). Mormon culture is proud of their alcohol avoidance. But, a little known fact in Utah is that while there have been other dry-ish cultures around the globe, prior to the provision of clean public drinking water, the only places those cultures were successful was in arid and mountainous regions. The reason is that there isn’t much water to get polluted in those areas — so people see it as more valuable, and it’s never standing — so that it’s biological impurities can’t thrive. In short, pure mountain streams make teetotaling more feasible.
What’s interesting about Utah is that the local culture doubled-down on this advantage: not only to they discourage alcohol, but they’ve also discouraged hot caffeinated drinks for over a century. Interestingly, there are a lot of quibbles about how effective that ban was in the 19th century. What is clear is that it became much more solid in the 20th century with the provision of clean public water.
And to finish, many Mormons are aware that alcohol, coffee, and tea were used substantially more by Mormons in their faiths first two decades. But the strong religious discouragement of those really began to take hold only after the faithful moved away from the plentiful, but fetid and slow-moving waters of Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, and New York.
I have been enjoying Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, which covers the British role in World War I. My favorite section details how the British responded when it turned out they had a drastic shortage of binoculars, which at that time were very important for fighting the war. They turned to the world’s leading manufacturer of “precision optics,” namely Germany. The German War Office immediately supplied 8,000 to 10,000 binoculars to Britain, directly intended and designed for military use. Further orders consisted of many thousands more and the Germans told the British to examine the equipment they had been capturing, to figure out which orders they wished to place.
The Germans in turn demanded rubber from the British, which was needed for their war effort. It was delivered to Germany at the Swiss border.
That’s right: the British and the Germans traded war materiel to each other while at war.
I always tell my students that no one is holding a gun to your head to make you trade.
Now, here’s a case of countries with guns pointing at each others’ heads, continuing to trade on a voluntary basis.
Regarding the meme circulating from an “economic historian” that private investment in capital isn’t important, Cold Spring Shops author Stephen Karlson quotes Kids Prefer Cheese’s Mike Munger who wrote this about said historian:
Without any prompting from Cold Spring Shops, he subsequently revises and extends.
*A clarification: Northern Illinois has a number of quite good departments, including econ. But the history department is a doctrinaire marxist ideological chop shop.
I'm not sure the description of History is completely accurate. Professor Livingston surely got onto the culture-studies ride at the right time, but the history department has also been reduced in size and scope over the past 20 years. We do what we can [with] what we have in economics. And we have Quidditch.
31 October 2011, midafternoon on what passes for a quad.
The most striking feature of the top map is that it shows the internal division into the 15 Soviet Socialist Republics that were in the Union. These roughly correspond to the countries that became independent since 1991.
The territories outlined in blue within the yellow R.S.F.S.R. are the various autonomous republics, oblasts, okrugs, and krais. Their capitals are marked in the Legend in the top map. A second Legend in the bottom map notes that they are named after their capital, unless noted there.
The insets are fairly self-explanatory, showing areas of deep urbanization and networking.
This one isn’t that interesting. Yugoslavia broke up more or less along the lines of the “republics” and autonomous regions that were its internal divisions.
If you care to, you can make out the pre-1918 borders, with Serbia composed of the (1960) “republics” of Serbia and Macedonia, and the autonomous region of Kosovo-Mitohiyan. As near as I can figure, that name after the hyphen has been just about erased. Go ahead, google it. Montenegro was independent, and all the rest were part of Austria-Hungary.
You can also make out the current borders: Serbia now includes the “republics” of Serbia and Voyvodina, and still claims the autonomous region of Kosovo-Mitohiyan … although the U.N. and 85 countries including most of those in “the west” don’t agree.
For the curious, Voyvodina is historically mostly Serbian, but was wrested from the Ottoman Empire by the Austrians around 1700. The rest of Serbia fought for its independence from the Ottomans through the 19th century.
This is taken from a 1960 Hammond Atlas that I had digitized by 1dollarscan.com.
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