Monday, June 25, 2007

"Tobacco firm has secret North Korean plant"

In class last week, we learned about a few shady ways North Korea may be making money (selling ballistic missiles, counterfeit US dollars, methamphetamines). But it's not all under the table deals in the second and third worlds: I found an article from the Guardian that discusses a British tobacco firm's "secret" plant in Pyongyang.

Apparently, British American Tobacco (BAT), the second largest tobacco company in the world, had been operating a plant in North Korea for four years (as of October 2005, when the article was released) -- only two years after shutting down a factory in Burma (aka Myanmar) after intense pressure from human rights organizations and the United Kingdom. North Korea of course too has a terrible human rights record, but a spokeswoman from BAT said that it was "not for us to interfere with the way governments run countries"; that instead, the British company could "lead by example." I think they are indeed leading by example. Despite repeated condemnations of the DPRK by internationally respected human rights groups, BAT has still set up a factory in the center of North Korea. A change in North Korean attitudes in respect to workers' rights? Not likely.

1 comment:

Josh Gonzalez said...

Instances like this give credence to anti-capitalist arguments that the powerful really will compromise free-market/democratic values in order to enrich themselves.

In this way, we prove all our talk of "innate human dignity" and "human rights" only apply to governments we don't like, rather than ourselves.

The moral imperative is not on North Korea, rather, it is on us countries (i.e. US and UK) to live up to our own talk. We know the North Koreans are jerks when it comes to human rights, we should take a page from Confucius' book and lead by moral example.