North Korea’s Nuclear Strategy Revealed.
A connection between North Korea’s nuclear strategy and a rock band may seem far fetched but lurking within the popular news lies a surprising insight. Tucked away in the oft-awaited Economist year-end double issue was a column offering up the clue. As reported in the Economist, the soft-rock band Moranbong recently turned up in Beijing to give a concert at the NCPA (National Center for the Performing Arts).
Moranbong, an all-female bevy of attractive North Korean musicians each hand-selected by “dear leader”, was due to grace the “egg” with a performance on 12 December. The anticipated repertory included such hits as “My Country is the Best”, nods to sponsor Kim Jong Un “We Can’t Live without His Care”, and then the paen to education “Let’s Learn”. Rounding out the ensemble were “Fluttering Red Flag” as perhaps a prescient hint to North Korea watchers everywhere that bull fights may be the future of popular entertainment in Pyongyang and, best of all, “A Song of a Big Haul of Fish” which motivated this particular comment.
What might be the relationship between the cancellation of Moranbong’s December 12 concert and the recent nuclear test of a putative hydrogen device? As proposed by Voxworld, linkage might reflect desire on the part of Kim Jong Un to reprimand the Chinese for a breakdown in diplomatic relations. Max Fisher’s timeline of North Korea/China interactions at vox.com:
December 2015: Kim sends a gift (back): The Moranbong Band, North Korea's state-run all-female pop band and Kim's pet project, will travel to China to perform a concert for Communist Party officials.
December 10, 2015: The day the Moranbong Band arrives in Beijing, North Korean state media announces the country has developed its first hydrogen bomb. Chinese leaders feel blindsided, seeing it as a cynical ploy to corner them into accepting the announcement. It is made known that senior Chinese leaders will no longer attend the Moranbong Band shows; lower-level officials will be sent instead.
December 12, 2015: North Korea, insulted and furious, cancels the shows. The Moranbong Band rushes onto a flight home, having not performed.
But this writer believes the issues go far deeper than mere diplomatic contretemps. As elaborated in Moranbong’s popular song, “A Song of a Big Haul of Fish”, North Korea’s fishing industry is key to retaining what vestige remains of a well-fed prosperous citizenry. Although mankind has derived sustenance from the marine habitat since the beginning of human history, technology has, as always, provided new and yet more cost-effective ways of harvesting this sustenance. The practice of blast fishing, depicted below from a mural in Konedobu, Port
Moresby dates back, at least, to the start of the previous century. Might the North Korean nuclear program represent an attempt by Kim Jong Un’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center to apply “lessons learned” in nuclear technology to the long-standing problem of keeping his citizenry well fed? Recall the Moranbong hit, “We Can’t Live without His Care”.
The latest North Korean nuclear experiment involved, at best guess, about 6 kilotons or less than half the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The 9 kiloton Wahoo test performed in 1958 as part of Operation Hardtack provides a model for volumetric effects. Detonated in deep water at a depth of 500 ft (150 m), the base surge from the blast grew to a maximum size of 2.5 mi (4.0 km) in diameter by 1,000 ft (300 m) high. Ocean studies of candidate edible biomass density indicate about 7g ash-free dry weight (AFDW dehydrated fish equivalents) per square meter. Doing the math, the Wahoo blast would have poached any seafood within a cylindrical blast volume of 4 km diameter by the 150 m depth for a yield of 1,680,000 metric tons!
With a population of 24 million, 1,680,000 metric tons works out to nearly 2 lb dry weight per North Korean man, woman and child. Not too shabby for just one measly blast. And then that song, “A Song of a Big Haul of Fish” from Moranbong was just giving it all away. Loose lips can sink ships or give away the farm. Just sayin’...