Tuesday, August 9, 2011


an NYT story on the difficulty foreign reporters have in making sense of the DPRK.
North Korea might be struggling with an unprecedented crystal meth epidemic. Reporting a story on the drug trade between North Korea and China, I spoke with dozens of sources: defectors, academics, policemen and even one North Korean crystal meth dealer, and I heard estimates that anywhere from zero to 50 percent of the population have tried the drug.

I painted a picture of the drug’s abuse for my article: part escape from the desolation of North Korean life, part medicine in a country with practically no healthcare infrastructure. Yet after months of research I have to admit that I have no idea what is actually happening inside North Korea.
This is all well and good (and has been oft repeated) but the author hides the lede which I think is most important:
I have no idea how many of my U.S. college classmates tried crystal meth, and I spent four years among them in one of the most open societies in the world.
The fact is, we actually have a considerable amount of information about the DPRK from official sources, defectors, foreign visitors, intelligence sources etc. etc. But at the end of the day trying to come to a valid conclusion about any society, nation, or group of people is much, much harder than it might seem.

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