[FOUNTAIN]Korea’s deviant genes

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[FOUNTAIN]Korea’s deviant genes

Charles Darwin explained evolution in terms of transmutation and survival of the fittest. Kinji Imanishi’s theory of habitat segregation has been almost as controversial. The Japanese ecologist argued that when organisms with the same genes live in completely separate environments, unique mutations will be simultaneously developed by each group to adapt to their respective environments and different new species will appear for each group.
The New York Times recently reported that over the last 150 years, people’s bodies have radically changed. The average adult American male is 5.3 centimeters (2 inches) taller today, and the aging process has noticeably slowed, extending the average lifespan. Koreans have become taller as well. In 1913, the average Korean adult male was 162 centimeters tall; now, the average is 173.3 centimeters, making Korean men the tallest in Asia, over Japan’s 170.7 centimeters and China’s 169.7 centimeters. Adult North Korean males, of the same ethnicity as South Koreans, are on average 158 centimeters tall, a full 15 centimeters shorter than their South Korean counterparts. The average North Korean child is more than 20 centimeters shorter than the average South Korean child due to malnutrition.
According to studies done in the Netherlands and Finland, babies born to mothers who have experienced famine are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases. If Mr. Imanishi’s theory holds true, the genes of the North Koreans might mutate and deviate from those of South Koreans.
North Korea has been suffering from a very serious food shortage. North Korea and Ethiopia are the world’s top two recepients of foreign aid. Last year, the North received 1.08 million tons of food. An adult citizen used to receive a daily ration of 300 grams (over half a pound) of food, but the portions have been reduced to 200 grams. Even then, more than a million North Koreans are unable to receive rations.
Adding insult to injury, North Korea has been hit by the “flood of the century.” An estimated 10,000 people are dead or missing, and the flood has left 1.3 to 1.5 million people homeless. Nevertheless, Pyongyang has rejected the World Food Program’s assistance. It also turned down Seoul’s offer to help through the International Red Cross. The reason is that it did not want to open the disaster scene to the public, usually an internationally accepted practice. Maybe North Korea’s leadership has mutated into a new species that lets its citizens starve while it concentrates on missiles and nuclear weapons development.


by Kim Jin-kook

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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