South Korea at Night
The contrast here is stark. It makes me think it’s a fake. Hell! It makes me wish, on behalf of the citizens of North Korea, that it was a fake. Nevertheless, if you want to know what kind of difference leadership can make, then compare this satellite photo of the Korean peninsula at night. The bottom is the Miracle on the Han River, South Korea. Above it, the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea.
Or compare their GDPs:
Back in 1970, the two countries were roughly comparable — in fact, AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt argues that, at the time of Mao Zedong’s death, North Korea’s workers were more productive and better educated than China’s. But, as you can see from the graph below (culled from this exhaustive dataset of historical statistics), North and South Korea’s economies diverged wildly around 1976.
In the early 1970s, North Korea’s economy ground to a halt, barely growing at all until Kim Il Sung’s death. Then, after Kim Jong Il took over in 1994, the economy worsened noticeably, per capita incomes fell, and the country became dependent on emergency U.N. food aid to stave off further famines. North Korea became, as Eberstadt puts it, “the world’s first and only industrialized economy to lose the capacity to feed itself.” (That said, there’s evidence that North Korea was growing weakly in the last few years of Kim Jong Il’s rule).