Impoverished and isolated North Korea has long invested heavily in its defense programs, even as its people suffer hunger and deprivation. North Korea's rocket launch Wednesday cost about $480 million, South Korean officials estimated before the launch.
Although North Korea said it was sending up a satellite for peaceful purposes, the United States and South Korea suspect that it was actually testing its ballistic missile technology. In either case, the money is a staggering sum in light of some of the nation's other needs.
“That sort of money could go a very long way to feed children, to upgrade health facilities,” said Patrick McCormick, spokesman for UNICEF. "Our position is that this money should be spent elsewhere."
If North Korea used the money to buy rice, it could cover its shortfalls in grain more than four times over, according to the most recent World Food Program estimates and price calculations by economist Marcus Noland. That would cover basic food needs in the undernourished country, if the relatively optimistic estimates by the World Food Program are correct.