Famine Rocks North Korea

An egg in North Korea now costs many people a week's salary, and even the staple of rice is only available on the black market for two weeks' pay, the Los Angeles Times reports. North Koreans are saying that this famine could be worse than the one that killed as many as two million people the 1990s. The famine is a product of the economic chaos created by currency revaluation. On Nov. 30 North Korea announced that its old currency would become invalid and that it was issuing new currency, in a move aimed at wiping out people who had become privately rich, thus restoring the equality of the communist system. The government then closed down private food markets because people were supposed to buy food from state stores, which had no food, so people had to purchase from the black market. By the time the private markets re-opened, merchants had no cash to restock their stands. The man responsible for the policy change was shot by a firing squad for "deliberately ruining the national economy." The economic chaos comes at a precarious time for North Korea, as Kim Jong Il has reportedly suffered a stroke and is attempting to hand power over to his relatively unknown son, Kim Jong Un, who is in his 20s.