North Korea’s reaction to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11 was muted, even somber, according to analysts of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, who have the unenviable job of watching North Korean TV all day.
“There was none of the anti-Japanese rhetoric that usually accompanies any announcements about Japan, and more surprising were the frequent foreign news clips of the disaster,” said one analyst. “The programs were very factual, and concentrated on the great loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami.”
Earthquake in North Korea?
“The possibility of an earthquake of the dimension of the recent one in Japan in North Korea or South Korea is pretty small,” according to a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior. “Korea is part of the Eurasian plate while Japan sits on the intersection of three different plates called ring of fire. This doesn’t mean that the possibility of an earthquake doesn’t exist. There was a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in North Korea as recently as 1978.
“At least in South Korea,” he concluded, “you wouldn’t see anything like the devastation you saw in Japan.”
One wonders if these might be his famous last words. North Korea is definitely not well prepared. For example, North Korea’s Chosum Central TV recently aired a two-part current affairs program called Lessons from the Earthquake that focused on Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. The show explained that North Korea’s earthquake warning systems included yellow and red flags that fly outside offices and party buildings and loudspeaker announcements.
Communications are so bad in North Korea that most North Koreans habitually keep an eye out for the various colored flags outside of public buildings that could signal a natural disaster.
“Keep an eye on your pets,” North Korea’s official party mouthpiece Dr. Kan Jing Soek of the North Korean Earthquake Bureau advised in the March 20th edition of Rodong Shimun (Workers Daily). ” If they start acting peculiar, this may be a warning that an earthquake is coming.”
Great Chinese Salt Panic
A combination of Internet rumors, misinformation and profiteering set off panic buying of salt in China’s costal provinces. Fed by fear of radiation escaping from Japanese nuclear reactors in Fukushima that would irradiate China, there was a run on salt in the mistaken belief that it could ward off the effects of radiation.
“We have no salt left,” said a Carrefour employee in Hangzhou, answering a phone inquiry from AFP. “Try Lianhua. I hear they’re limiting sales there, though. Salt was sold out here by Wednesday afternoon.”
Some shop owners saw the opportunity for massive profiteering, pushing the price of salt up to 10 times the regular price as its shelves were stripped bare.
Then the inevitable counter reaction set in. Between government information broadcasts and the onset of common sense people realized that they panicked. Salt has absolutely no effect against radiation.
Now comes the next big problem. How do you return a 200 kilograms bag of salt to a glaring grocer who has already said “no” to a dozen people who have exactly the same problem? They better hope that there’s a Chinese version of sauerkraut that uses lots of salt. It’s either that, or face the prospect of a very big bag of salt in the pantry for the next 20 years or so.
Beaumarchai is a writer for Majirox News – firstname.lastname@example.org
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