Monday, October 31, 2011

Dutch hunger and North Korea

After withholding food aid to North Korea since 2009, the United States plans to resume staggered delivery following last week's nuclear talks while South Korea refuses to relent. The allies' hard line has not only handed Pyongyang a propaganda card, it also ignores long-term effects of starvation - as evident from the Netherlands' 1944-1945 famine - that could hinder political change.

You can read my full article here

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Summary of North Korean Food Aid Debate in October 2011

October 6

Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told an annual parliamentary audit of his ministry in charge of relations with North Korea that the North's rice crop did appear to be falling a little short of the average, but said "I don't think (the food situation) is very serious," without elaborating further or giving any figures.

October 7

State Department spokesperson claims that the US is still evaluating North Korea’s needs. The statement outlines US concerns that “the aid provided not only by the United States but by the international community went into regime hands rather than into the hands of hungry people.” Calls for better monitoring system.

October 13

Jim White, vice president of operations at Mercy Corps, and Matt Ellingson, director of program development at Samaritan’s Purse, reported that they were very satisfied with monitoring and oversight of the food aid. This conclusion was drawn from their weeklong trip in the provinces of North Hwanghae, South Hwanghae and Kangwon, the region that was most severely hit by monsoon-strength storms this summer.

October 17

Valerie Amos, a U.N. undersecretary-general, arrived Monday in Pyongyang, where she said she plans to hold talks with officials on long-range plans for meeting the country's food needs.

October 21

Valerie Amos said Friday that 6 million North Koreans, particularly children, mothers and pregnant women, need help.

Amos said she'd been given rare access to a government public distribution center, where rations that have fallen from 21 ounces (600 grams) a day to 7 ounces (200 grams) a day per person are handed out, as well as to a private market where more nutritious food is available at prices far beyond the means of most North Koreans.

October 23

Amos insisted that responsibility for solving repeated food crises lay with North Korea’s government and its need to tackle the underlying causes of poor agricultural production.

October 24

Valerie Amos told reporters in Seoul that the core principle with respect to humanitarian aid was that it should not be politicized.

Amos said the North has endured a "food gap" of about 1 million tonnes out of a total food requirement of 5.3 million tonnes for the past few years.

DPRK vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan meets with Bosworth in Geneva.

October 25

North Korea has invited a coalition of South Korean non-governmental groups to visit the DPRK. Park Hyun-seok, secretary general of the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (KNCCNK) that comprises more than 50 groups, said coalition representatives were invited to Pyongyang to discuss overall issues from Wednesday to Saturday.

Seoul, which must approve travel to the DPRK, denied the request, citing a lack of monitoring.

US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said no decision on the food assistance had been made, adding that the issue will be strictly separated from the North's nuclear development programs.

In addition, the State Department rejects the notion that the US is holding up its decision on food aid for political or policy reasons.

Furthermore, it clarified that potential food aid to Somalia did not conflict with the possibility of providing food aid to the DPRK.

October 26

The US government is reportedly preparing to resume food aid to North Korea, but will stagger the aid in a series of deliveries.

A source close to the North has told Yonhap News that Washington plans to restart the humanitarian assistance that stalled in 2008 amid uncertainties over the rightful distribution of 170-thousand out of the pledged 500-thousand tons of food.

No significant breakthroughs in denuclearization talks between the DPRK and US in Geneva

Thursday, October 20, 2011

China's stagnation, not an option

China's focus on redistributing wealth ignores a political stagnation more threatening to long-term success. The new leadership in 2012 faces tough choices on the state's monopoly, the environment and relations with the United States - issues that will largely determine the nation's prosperity.

You can read my full article here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

US coercive diplomacy threatens Korean war*

There are hawkish voices in Washington who are again recommending coercive measures on North Korea that envision massive military and economic might devastating Kim Jong-il's regime. However, plans to mobilize a larger South Korea army, place nuclear weapons there and engage in false-flag operations not only threaten to alienate Russia and China, they also bait the North's notorious willingness for all-out war.

You can read my full article here

*note: I did not choose this title.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Food before politics on North Korea

While the United States indulges in months of scruples over feeding North Korea, basic economic principles suggest widespread starvation and malnutrition are real. As the clock ticks, Washington should perhaps consider that the potentially ruinous burdens of demographic disintegration and insurmountable health problems could make relenting to food aid a farsighted decision.

You can read my full article here

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Brief on the dire need for food aid in the DPRK

Mistrust of the other party’s true intentions often underscores the negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. Thus it is to no one’s surprise that the United States is approaching the food crisis in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with extreme caution and hesitation. However, conditions this year appear too dire for the US State Department to wait for Pyongyang to commit to substantive changes in its military posture before supplying everyday North Koreans with humanitarian assistance.

2011 has been without a doubt a difficult year for the Korean Peninsula. The winter had been one of the coldest in 66 years and the rainfall in July had been one of the largest in the past 100 years; a double blow for the already struggling North Korean agriculture industry.

Members from US aid organizations such as Mercy Corp, World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Global Resource Services and Christian Friends of Korea visited three North Korean provinces in February of this year and assessed that severe winter conditions had frozen nearly half of all the country’s winter crops. In addition, the group witnessed and documented cases of acute malnutrition and other hunger-induced health problems among the children. That was February, before heavy flooding in July struck the southern provinces of North Korea and washed away 600,000 hectares of the country’s “rice bowl.”

The World Food Program (WFP) reported in September that cases of children being admitted to hospitals for malnutrition has substantially risen and estimated that a third of all children under the age of five are severely malnourished. Furthermore, the lack of clean drinking water and other basic sanitation systems have led to widespread diarrhea and skin diseases. US-based NGOs reported that the daily rations for individuals in certain areas of the country have dropped as low as 150 grams of potato per person.

Meanwhile, concerned with the possibility of Pyongyang either diverting the aid to its military or hoarding the supplies for the celebration of Kim Il Sung’s centennial, Washington refused to provide any food assistance until Pyongyang also offers satisfactory transparency in their distribution system.

In August, despite both the European Union and the Russian Federation committing food aid to North Korea, the United States continued to delay its decision by suggesting that Pyongyang should reengage with the world to establish long term food security first. On August 18, the State Department finally offered $900,000 in flood assistance, but specified that the aid package will not include any food. Samaritan’s Purse returned to North Korea to deliver the non-food goods in early September.

Samaritan’s Purse returned from North Korea with new documented evidence of exacerbated health conditions of the malnourished youth in many parts of the country. Despite the evidence presented by the WFP and NGOs over the past seven months, Washington remains in deliberation over the appropriate course of action. This remains the case after the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, a South Korean NGO delivering food aid to North Korea, was allowed to not only oversee distribution of foodstuffs to flood victims but also videotape the process in early August.

The United States cannot forever withhold food aid to the North Koreans without further linking food aid to political aims, something that the US State Department disavowed as its policy time after time. Robert King, US special envoy for North Korean human-rights issues, emphasized this point when he said that "the United States policy is that … we provide assistance, humanitarian assistance... based on need and [not on] political consideration." Washington should stand by its stated principles.