Another week, another long blogging delay. It seems that there just plain isn’t anything interesting going on these days. Maybe just a hang-over from the Chuseok holiday but all is quiet on the eastern front, with no foreigners punching old people, missile launches or anything to get the bloggersphere going. Oh well, anyways in the spirit of putting words to paper (or screen) simply for the sake of doing it, here’s a couple of things which have caught my attention.
At least they got to see some of the beautiful Kurdish countryside (HT to ROKdrop.com)
Via the Chosun Ilbo, we have word that a 2008 project ballyhooed by then recently elected President Lee has resulted in $400 million USD spent and pretty much none of the promised 1.9 billion barrels of oil. In retrospect this figure was a bit over-ambitious considering that, although northern Iraq has untapped oil reserves, the five areas under this agreement barely had a drop.
As a single incident, this story isn’t exactly noteworthy as while the price tag seems large in terms of international development projects (especially natural resources related ones) it’s hardly enormous. The main point of this is, as said above, it was one of the original “successes” of Korea‘s recent push towards Resource Diplomacy, the idea of using international resource development as a tool for strengthening global influence and power position. In the years since, there have been many stories about big name/big number projects done in cooperation with other governments or won by state supported companies and agencies. The question becomes, then, what is Korea getting out of all this? By this recent article in Yonhap, not very much.
According to the report submitted by the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy for the annual parliamentary audit, 100 of 270 overseas development projects in which South Korean firms invested money were judged commercially non-viable in 2010. Only 17 projects were considered successful, while the remaining 153 are in the process of being evaluated.
The report also said that a total of 419 overseas mineral resource development projects, worth US$8.53 billion won, have been registered with the ministry since 1977, with South Korean firms having recovered $3.62 billion, or 42.4 percent of their investment.
Government-backed development projects also had a low success rate, with 46 failing and only 15 yielding resources that could be utilized, it noted. Nine out of 30 resource development agreements that were signed by the Lee Myung-bak government since April 2008 had been discontinued as of July because of low profitability or a breakdown in negotiations, the report said.
So all around we have a fairly low success rate all around between the public and private sectors. For big business this is definitely bad news, but what about for the government attempts? The idea of resource diplomacy is two-fold in both providing resources to your country and increasing influence on others. While the first goal certainly hasn’t been met, one can definitely make the argument they helped raise the Korean profile on the world stage. So, in the end we might have here is some learning experiences and minor failures rather than complete catastrophes, depending on your perspective.
The term “a rare glimpse” is probably overused as it is applied to everything that comes out of North Korea, be it undercover footage smuggled across the border or State approved, if not sponsored, media. These photos are at the very least interesting, good quality and nice “daily life” snapshots without ulterior motive or purpose.
We all know that NK is a fairly poor country and a fairly odd country, but even then there’s something off about a great number of these images. Take this one for example, outside of the odd makeup and clothing making the boys fairly gender ambiguous, they just seem too skinny. As noted in a previous post, there is a big malnutrition problem in the DPRK, but these (and all the children in the pictures) are ones chosen to be presented to foreign media and images allowed to be taken. That means these kids must be at the very least among the North’s “middle” class or comparably privileged, but there’s not a chubby child among them. Maybe I was looking with a skewed lens to prove my prior points. Either way, all the images are definitely worth a look and feel free to share your opinions here.