On the flooding in Dandong and Sinuiju:
— KCNA reports on the flood, noting that the danger came from China and that people who were at death’s door still had the wherewithal to praise Kim Jong Il as a demigod and remind the world of their good fortune to be born in the DPRK.
— Then Kim Jong Il proceeded to spend the afternoon at a concert, enjoying some quality down time with the head of the Korean People’s Army and listening to succession-flavored songs such as “the female octet and mixed Panchang ‘Push back the Frontiers of the latest Science’.” Meanwhile KCNA proves its absolute tone-deafness by reporting during the floods about how much the privileged kids in Pyongyang love to go swimming.
— A BBS affiliated with the Dandong city government has some striking photos of the flood zone.
— Both Western and Chinese media are relying on KCNA reports to note that the North Koreans rescued 5150 people from the “Sinuiju suburbs.” Uiju is another city altogether. Properly speaking, Sinuiju doesn’t have suburbs; the growth of the city has been tightly controlled; there are some false houses on the island directly across but to my knowledge no one lives there. The houses there don’t have windows; it looks like some parts of Detroit. I didn’t see anyone over there standing on a roof to be rescued. The night before the flood however, there was some furious welding going on near the Yalu River bridge on the North Korean side. This didn’t seem to prevent the northern outskirts of the city from being flooded.
— The longest levy along the river in Dandong not only tells the story of the city, it is also festooned with metal-wrought promotionals for tourism to North Korea. Imagine the Chollima horse image slowly going underwater.
— Dandong tourism offices were full of photos of last week’s “Arirang” festival in Pyongyang geared toward Chinese tourists. I have a notebook full of the slogans, most of which are standard Korean fare (after all, it takes months to prepare the elaborate flash-card action) but also many, many slogans in Chinese, including gems like “General Kim Il Song spent 20 years on the soil of Manchuria.”
— In Kuandian county, bridges in the interior had already smashed by prior floods; it’s a Manchu model minority region because the Manchus make no trouble for anyone, their language is virtually dead, and they are basically absorbed into the Han majority. Restive and industrial it is not.
— In North Korean border cities south and west of the giant Suifeng Dam (which, along with a second immense and raging dam about an hour up the river from Dandong, could not prevent the flooding) were still chugging along on August 20, with no signs of evacuation. Unlike many other areas in North Korea, these cities have ample electrical power (the North Koreans, not the Chinese, control the distribution from the dams thanks to Mao-era Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai) and can thus remain in operation. But no evident preparations were taking place on the morning of August 20 in those regions in spite of the fact that the river was already high and the rain was simply pummeling down.