Throughout the 1990s, meth was produced by the government of North Korea. But these days it’s ordinary North Koreans who have set up their own labs and are manufacturing and distributing it. In North Korea, “meth is offered as casually as a cup of tea,” according to LA Times Beijing Bureau Chief Barbara Demick. She joins The Takeaway to explain why the government stopped producing the drug, and how entrepreneurs have since picked up the business.
Twenty years ago today, Serb militants opened fire on thousands of peace demonstrators in Sarajevo, the Muslim-led capitol city of the newly independent state of Bosnia-Hercegovina. The attack set off what would become the longest siege of a capitol city in modern warfare — lasting from April 5, 1992 to February 29, 1996. We talk to Nadja Halilbegovich, born and raised in Sarajevo, who still has mortar in her body from the days of the siege, and Barbara Demick, author of "Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood," which hits bookstores this month.
Tens of thousands of North Korean people and soldiers lined the snowy streets of Pyonyang Wednesday for the carefully choreographed funeral procession of deceased leader Kim Jong-il. Kim's son and designated successor, Kim Jong-un, was seen walking alongside the hearse carrying his father's body. North Korea's iron-fisted leader since 1994, Kim reportedly died of a heart attack on December 17 at age 69. Funeral services are scheduled to last for two days.
Within hours of announcing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il's death on Sunday, the country's ruling Workers' Party released a statement saying North Korea would unite Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un. Not much is known about Kim Jong-un, who was named his father's heir apparent last year. He is believed to be in his late twenties, and apparently went to boarding school in Switzerland. Whether the younger Kim will be able to maintain control of his country and stick to his father's brand of hard-line Communism remains to be seen. The older Kim left North Korea's economy in shambles, and thousands of people are believed to be starving.
After the death of two South Korean marines in a North Korean artillery attack on Tuesday, the United States has called on countries in the region to join with the U.S. in a unified diplomatic front. Since that call, China has condemned the attack and Hong Lei, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for "peace and stability on the Korean peninsula."
China has long been a strategic ally for North Korea, providing much needed food and humanitarian resources, but even the Chinese were taken by surprise by the attacks this week. And they seemed to be in the dark just a few days earlier when reports surfaced about North Korea's new uranium enrichment plant.
We frequently aim to pull the curtain back on stories that are hidden or hard to understand…whether they’re political campaigns or scientific breakthroughs. But when it comes to the nation and story of North Korea, the curtain is more like an unscalable wall surrounded by an electric barbed wire fence; few people from the outside are truly able to access what’s so well hidden.
One of the oldest written languages in the world is in danger of being forgotten. People in China send text messages more than any other population in the world, and many experts believe that this could lead to its people forgetting how to write Chinese characters. The phenomenon has been called, tibiwangzi: literally (take pen, forget character).