Monday, June 16, 2008

Korea's Dark Half

North and South Korea have been separated by the 38th parallel since the Korean War in the early 1950's. While the south has become relatively prosperous under an elected government and a free-market system, the people in the north have suffered many hardships and near starvation under an oppressive, brutal dictatorship trying to run a closed economy. These stark contrasts are extremely evident when comparing the availability of working electricity as seen in a night-time illumination photo of the peninsula:

The metropolitan area of Seoul, the South’s capital, holds 23 million people and is the second-largest conurbation on the planet (after Tokyo). Its huge lit-up area, close to the border with the North, is clearly visible from space. Other Southern cities, while quite a lot smaller than Seoul, are also clearly distinguishable on this satellite map, for example Gunsan on the western coast, directly below it the inland city of Gwangju, the cities of Masan and Busan on the southern coast, and several other cities, much smaller still.

By contrast (quite literally, even), the only speck of light north of the DMZ is the North’s capital of Pyonyang, a single, neat pinprick of white punched through an otherwise completely black canvas. The minimal lighting belies the fact that Pyongyang is home to an estimated 3 million people. Gunsan, in the South, has under 300.000 inhabitants.

There is only one bright side to this darkness that I can think of: North Korea must be a fantastic place for stargazing…
It's truly unfortunate that so many people are forced to suffer and live like this in the 21st century, and I'm sure that it doesn't help that their leader is so bat-shit crazy either. But yeah, I'll bet the sky is one of the more beautiful things they get to see every day. Sad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Man, what a defeatist attitude on both your parts! North Korea is looking up! They played South Korea to a tie in their first qualifier match with them last week. They're also currently sitting on top of their bracket with South. The goal differential leaves a bit to be desired, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day either. This is the most hope that North Korea has had in decades.

In VERY loosely related news, you may recall that one of my groomsmen was half-Korean. His mom is South Korean. She owns a donut shop in Parker, TX now. As a result, he and I grew up (primarily) rooting for 3 teams in the World Cup. The USA, South Korea and Nigeria.

Let's face it, watching those Nigerians run was every bit as spectacular as Randy Moss on a "Go" route... and we all know that the white man is obsessed with the athletic black.