The North Korean productivity miracle

by on November 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

…brewing remains just about the only useful activity at which North Korea beats the South. The North’s Taedonggang Beer, made with equipment imported from Britain, tastes surprisingly good.

That is from The Economist, I cannot confirm this judgment.  Furthermore there is no North Korean great stagnation:

Talking to CNN, a South Korea government official showed the apparently innocent objects that the killer was planning to use to kill Park Sang-hak on the streets of Seoul. Two of them were pens, which apparently are standard issue among North Korean secret agents. The first kills on contact, injecting quickly a poison that paralyzes the victim and kills it within seconds. The second one fires one single bullet, a tiny projectile which is also filled with a killing venom.

But those two were well known by the South Korean’s intelligence agency. The third weapon, however, is completely new to them: a flashlight that has three holes. Each hole is actually gun barrel, which gets activated with the push of a button. One click and boom, you are dead.

The article, with photos, is here. And North Korea may soon be launching long-range missiles.

For the pointer on the first item I thank Nick Slepko.

dearieme November 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Secret weapons are alluring. At the end of a dinner party I once remarked that I’d always longed to own a swordstick; the host then showed me his.

Andrew' November 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm

his what?

lords of lies November 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm

after which followed a rousing swordstick fight.

Andrew' November 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm

An unroused one being nearly impossible to pull off.

lords of lies November 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

point shaken.

Willitts November 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I think you have the causation reversed.

Willitts November 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Meant to reply to Andrew.

Willitts November 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I can’t believe Tyler did not link to the sound thrashing that Deirdre McCloskey gave to Sandel. Deference to Greg Mankiw?

I’m only disappointed that Deirdre did not eviscerate Sandel’s true aspirations for dictatorship

“(iv) Class Feeling. Among upper-class and middle-class intellectuals, only in the transposed form — i. e. as a belief in the superiority of the proletariat. Here again, inside the intelligentsia, the pressure of public opinion is overwhelming. Nationalistic loyalty towards the proletariat, and most vicious theoretical hatred of the bourgeoisie, can and often do co-exist with ordinary snobbishness in everyday life.

(v) Pacifism. The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to the taking of life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States.” – Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

liberalarts November 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Re. obscure sects, we spent several evenings in my Mennonite catechism studying pacifism and writing personal essays on why pacifism is a preferred position. The main point there is that only God can justify the taking of a life, and that participation in nationalistic warfare presumptuously involves putting the politics of man ahead of God. If you don’t believe in God, or if you believe that God favors your country over others, then the argument is a poor one. I am not very religious, but the argument has always struck me as a good one, and it makes me very jaded against the nationalistic religious right, who somehow simultaneously embrace religion and might country right or wrong mentality.

Willitts November 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Orwell was a pacifist until he realized that evils on the scale of Franco, Hitler, and Stalin must be defeated by force of arms. Of course, the Republicans lost to Franco, Hitler was defeated, and Stalin died still in power. This does not alter Orwell’s conclusion about war being necessary in many circumstances.

It also does not negate his observation that some opponents of war (in his time and ours) do not oppose war per se. They oppose war against enemies that they tacitly if not openly support.

“Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is going to win!”

Nevertheless i too am disturbed by what you might call religious nationalism, e.g. Gott mit uns. Nevertheless, i think it was profound and essential for our Founding Fathers to base their theories of freedom and democracy on moral sentiments derived from their faith. I also dont believe that it is always unsuitable to believe that God has blessed our undertaking. The problem is that the slave holding founders and the murderous Nazis paid lip service to religious ideals. In that, they were hardly unique (both sides of the Crusades, the Conquistadores). Billions of people take their religious values into voting booths with morality on their side.

I also think you are mischaracterizing the “my country right or wrong.” No one i know or met or read about has such values. You simply choose to define the values and actions you oppose as ‘wrong’ and attach the label of evil to those who disagree with you. I doubt both your objectivity and your knowledge of people’s intentions. Orwell observed unadmitted intentions through actions and words. There is a difference between guessing ill intentions and having substantial evidence for it. Courts regularly address issues of intent.

Rich Berger November 28, 2012 at 4:30 pm
Andrew' November 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm

“Those that have fallen from favour include Ri Yong-ho, the head of the army and Ri Kwang-gon, the governor of the North Korean central bank”

Those cats take monetary policy seriously!

collin November 28, 2012 at 4:36 pm

And according to a Chinese reprinting of an Onion article, their leader is the sexist man in the world!

Of course if your country is the Mendoza line for productivity, there is no way but up.

Mark Thorson November 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm

The quality of North Korean beer is said to vary, being better on draft and after recent servicing of the equipment by the Germans who originally built it for the British company that went bankrupt.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8132199.stm

RealityZone November 28, 2012 at 5:14 pm

America has no credibility when it talks about other countries and their assassination plots.
Just think back to the CIA attempts on Castro and many others.
America sponsored and or condoned many coups.
Innocent people were killed by assassins or by gun fire, and bombings in the streets.
People were disappeared by American sponsored hit squads.
Think John Negroponte in C/America.
We are still at it today.
America should listen and hear the screams by the victims, and corpses of their prior coups.
Before they point fingers and scream fire in a theater.

Foobarista November 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

If the Norks had made those cigars, they would have worked.

TGGP November 29, 2012 at 10:58 pm

The Castro plots generally didn’t get beyond the drawing board.

dan1111 November 29, 2012 at 1:57 am

I don’t condone all of America’s actions, but if you think we are morally equivalent to the North Korean regime, then you are seriously blinded by ideology.

Andrew' November 29, 2012 at 8:01 am

I’m not sure. It’s actually a tough call. On the one hand our CIA operates in complete secret doing evil things against the wishes of most Americans (and even some Presidents!). On the other hand an entire nation is under the cult-like delusion of their leader and would do many evil things openly.

But we weren’t pointing fingers. We were enjoying a story about how the North Korean spooks have better gadgets than the last 3 Bond films combined.

Ronald Brak November 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

This particular design of flashlight gun might be new, but putting a gun in a torch isn’t new. I think some may have even been sold in the United States at some point. (That is, a shooty type gun in a torch, not just an electrical shock device.)

Willitts November 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I saw a flashlight gun for sale on Cheaper than Dirt just a few days ago. It’s hardly novel.

The only purpose of such things is to get them past a cursory security check. They’re only good for 1-3 shots. They aren’t silent.

Getting away with using it is the hard part.

The poison is more interesting because it is much easier to get away with. Umbrella tips and shoe needles are the most common delivery systems along with pens and rings. A discreet poke to the foot or calf can easily escape detection. The user takes a lot of risk, especially with ricin or botulinum. Darts are safer but less reliable.

Willitts November 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm
LINGJIE November 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I can not believe that the secret agents in North Korea have this advanced weapon. I only saw this kind of weapons in the movie 007. It’s unbelievable even though I saw this weapon in the video.

Mark Thorson November 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Why couldn’t DPRK make these? There’s no advanced technology in them, just poison, explosive, and machining/craftsmanship. Any nation that can make a nuclear bomb and a large missile would have no difficulty making these.

dan1111 November 29, 2012 at 1:51 am

“I only saw this kind of weapons in the movie 007.”

That’s probably exactly why North Korea has it.

john November 28, 2012 at 11:03 pm

No great stagnation.

But good fermentation.

Seth C November 29, 2012 at 12:15 am

I want to stress that North Korea had to import equipment to make a beverage that predates written language.

Rahul November 29, 2012 at 12:52 am

The “equipment” I was using just now to produce “written language” was imported too. And I’m not typing from North Korea!

Andrew' November 29, 2012 at 8:10 am

Both good points, and American beer may not be great.

I’d think North Koreans would need a little stronger drink though.

So Much For Subtlety November 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm

If I were North Korean, I would never touch a drop of the hard stuff. Or even the soft stuff.

Hard to be a patriotic Communist when you’re proving in vino veritas.

So I beg to differ, they do not need either.

Brian Donohue December 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

best.comment.ever.

msgkings November 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Soju!

msgkings November 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Meant as reply to Andrew’. A strong drink indeed.

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