A Dumb Idea: North Korea and the Travel Ban

North Korea cynically used to camouflage the Muslim ban

Stephan Haggard (PIIE), Marcus Noland (PIIE) and Kent Boydston (PIIE)

September 27, 2017 7:00 AM

This blog has long documented the leaky nature of the sanctions regime and how those leaks have contributed to the status quo around the peninsula. But it has also been committed to the proposition that the ultimate objective of any policy should be to effect change in North Korea itself. One way of doing this is a mantra that Marc Noland and Steph Haggard have developed, namely “to get people in and to get people out.” We supported the ban on tourism to North Korea because the industry had become just another foreign exchange generator, permitted only the most circumscribed and stage-managed contact with the society, and through the cynical abuse of American tourists—most tragically Otto Warmbier—created diplomatic leverage for North Korea.

But such reservations do not pertain to humanitarian contacts, nor to scholarly and other professional contact. And it certainly doesn’t pertain to trying to get North Koreans to see and understand the real world. Steph Haggard just returned from giving a talk at the University of British Columbia, where Kyung-ae Park has been bringing North Korean academics to Canada for seven years now; an explanation of her logic can be found here.

"The ultimate objective of any policy should be to effect change in North Korea itself." 

We were thus dispirited to read that the US has now banned most North Koreans from entry into the United States. North Korea was lumped together with parallel actions affecting two other countries not on the original travel ban list: Chad and Venezuela. Inclusion of North Korea is particularly cynical and short-sighted; nominally included for failure to cooperate with US screening protocols, it appears ultimately aimed at diluting the perception that the ban focused primarily on Muslim countries. To the administration’s credit, the new ban does not cover students or refugees. But as Peter Margulies points out at Lawfare, “since North Korea does not allow its nationals to emigrate to the U.S. (or anywhere else), the number of North Koreans affected by the new ban is virtually nil.”

The ban could nonetheless have a chilling effect on the perception of US openness to receive North Korean refugees. And more importantly, the ban blocks other types of contacts which both North Korea and we desperately need to find out what is going on in the country and for North Korea’s next generation to see the world. Sorry, but this is just a dumb idea. 

Comments

Alfio Cerami

 

North's nuclear program has been estimated at $1 billion to $3 billion. According to CNBC estimations, each “Scud costs between $1 million and $2 million; each Musudan from $3 million to $6 million; and each submarine-launched ballistic missile at $5 million to $10 million”. (Source: CNBC 2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/20/less-than-one-aircraft-carrier-the-cost-of-north-koreas-nukes.html). As of September 2017, the cost of one kilogram of rice is around KPW 6,000 that correspond to approximately $6.67. This means North's nuclear program costs between 149,925,037 kilos of rices and 449,775,112 kilos of rice. Each Scud costs between 149,925 kilos of rices and 299,850 kilos of rice; each Musudan from 149,925 kilos of rice and 899,550 kilos of rice; and each submarine-launched ballistic missile at 749,625 kilos of rice and 1,449,250 kilos of rice. Over a total population of 24,851,267 inhabitants, North Korea's nuclear program, as mentioned before estimated between $1 and $3 billion, corresponds to 40 kilos of rice per capita and 120 kilos of rice per capita. This, subsequently, corresponds to 100 grams and 300 grams of rice per day for each inhabitant.

 

Alfio Cerami

 

ERRATA CORRIDGE PREVIOUS COMMENT: I was forced to recalculate prices because of wrong exchange rates. Online converters gave me 6000 KPW for 6.7 dollars. Probably a mistake.  Current exchange rate $1 = 8086 KPW 28.9.2017, which means 0.75 per kilo of rice.

Corrected Figures:

North's nuclear program has been estimated at $1 billion to $3 billion. According to CNBC estimations, each “Scud costs between $1 million and $2 million; each Musudan from $3 million to $6 million; and each submarine-launched ballistic missile at $5 million to $10 million”. (Source: CNBC 2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/20/less-than-one-aircraft-carrier-the-cost-of-north-koreas-nukes.html). As of September 2017, the cost of one kilogram of rice is around KPW 6,000 that corresponds to approximately $0.75 (exchange rate $1 = 8086 KPW 28.9.2017). This means North's nuclear program costs between 1,333,333 tons of rices and 4,000,000 tons of rice. Each Scud costs between 1,333 tons of rices and 2,666 tons of rice; each Musudan from 4,000 tons of rice and 8,000 tons of rice; and each submarine-launched ballistic missile at 6,666 tons of rice and 13,333 tons of rice. Over a total population of 24,851,267 inhabitants, North Korea's nuclear program, as mentioned before estimated between $1 and $3 billion, corresponds to 54 kilos of rice per capita and 161 kilos of rice per capita. This, subsequently, corresponds to 150 grams and 450 grams of rice per day for each inhabitant.

 

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