newsweek:

North Korea’s foremost trade debt to the western world is bizarre even by North Korean standards. Each time the administration misses a payment, as it has done every year for the past 40 years, we are reminded of one of the most unexpected political twists of the last century: Kim Il-sung scamming Sweden out of 1,000 Volvo 144 sedans.
It is a story that is just as strange as it sounds – and, in 2014, it shows how North Korea’s grand aspirations and increasingly bellicose rhetoric may founder on a chronic inability to assess its own financial ability.
Judging by emerging tourist footage and rogue documentaries, it may also be an unexpected testament to the durability of Swedish engineering. To say that incumbent Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has carried on papa Jong-il’s legacy of insularity and geopolitical horseplay would be an understatement: the 31-year-old has been at the helm for less than three years, but he has already galvanised international media with “preemptive” nuclear strike plans, the surprise execution of his own uncle, and a burgeoning bromance with former NBA star Dennis Rodman.
With these incidents already on record, few things should surprise the outside world – but in July, the North Korean administration once again drew gasps from human rights organisations when it announced that its severely impoverished population would soon witness the construction of a grand national project: a new “tourist city” in Wonsan, complete with an underwater hotel and villa district.
North Korea Owes Sweden €300m for 1,000 Volvos It Stole 40 Years Ago - And Is Still Using

newsweek:

North Korea’s foremost trade debt to the western world is bizarre even by North Korean standards. Each time the administration misses a payment, as it has done every year for the past 40 years, we are reminded of one of the most unexpected political twists of the last century: Kim Il-sung scamming Sweden out of 1,000 Volvo 144 sedans.

It is a story that is just as strange as it sounds – and, in 2014, it shows how North Korea’s grand aspirations and increasingly bellicose rhetoric may founder on a chronic inability to assess its own financial ability.

Judging by emerging tourist footage and rogue documentaries, it may also be an unexpected testament to the durability of Swedish engineering. To say that incumbent Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has carried on papa Jong-il’s legacy of insularity and geopolitical horseplay would be an understatement: the 31-year-old has been at the helm for less than three years, but he has already galvanised international media with “preemptive” nuclear strike plans, the surprise execution of his own uncle, and a burgeoning bromance with former NBA star Dennis Rodman.

With these incidents already on record, few things should surprise the outside world – but in July, the North Korean administration once again drew gasps from human rights organisations when it announced that its severely impoverished population would soon witness the construction of a grand national project: a new “tourist city” in Wonsan, complete with an underwater hotel and villa district.

North Korea Owes Sweden €300m for 1,000 Volvos It Stole 40 Years Ago - And Is Still Using

Reblogged from newsweek

Nothing is more disconcerting, it seems to me, than to enter a home or an apartment in which there are no books and no place for books, no sign that a book has ever been there. It always seems like a kind of desecration to me, even though I am perfectly aware that bookless people can also be saved, even that they often have much practical wisdom, something Aristotle himself recognized. I know that there are libraries from which we can borrow for a time a book we may not own. We are blessed to live in a time of relatively cheap books. Ultimately, no doubt, the important thing is what is in our head, not what is on a printed page on our shelves, even when they contain our own books. Nor do we have to replicate the New York City Public Library in our own homes. Still, most of us would benefit from having at least a couple hundred books, probably more, surrounding us. I am sure that by judicious use of sales and used-book and online stores, anyone can gather together a very respectable basic library, probably for less than a thousand dollars. With a little enterprise, one can find in a used bookstore or online the Basic Works of Aristotle or the Lives of Plutarch for less than twenty dollars. When stretched out over time and compared, say, to the cumulative price of supplies for a heavy smoker, or a week’s stay in Paris or Tokyo, or a season ticket to one’s favorite NFL team, the cost of books is not too bad. My point is merely that whether or not we have good books around us is not so much a question of cost as it is a question of what we do with our available money, with how we judge the comparative worth of things.