Thursday, February 08, 2007

Food Aid to North Korea

After North Korea's underground nuclear test last October, South Korea immediately suspended a shipment of 500,000 tonnes of food supplies, and China also reduced food exports to North Korea last year, as responses to North Korea's "provocative act." But North Korea is a country in need of food. The World Food Programme has identified 1.9 million North Koreans as in immediate need of help.

As the six-party talks have begun in Beijing, some believe that food aid is crucial to this round of talks. For more, read this article.


Eric said...

I attended an interesting conference today where we talked about the prospects of North Korea's economic reform/collapse. One thing mentioned was how the food shortage is portrayed by NK may be a tactic of extortion by the Kim regime. Food aid delivered to North Korea is routinely mis-routed, hoarded, sold on the black market at rediculous prices - all contrary to the intent of the aid. Aid is given to the military and KWP to continue regime support before any distribution to the common citizen.

Additionally, while the shortage for rural common people is a huge issue, it was noted that during the arduous march in the 90s when a tenth of the population starved to death, the prices of rice and corn were equal, basically because the citizens would eat anything they could buy. Right now there is a very large disparity between the price of corn and rice, and that probably means that the conditions of the great famine have not completely returned to NK, as some media outlets would have people believe.

To temper this, I'd like to say that I believe the common person there needs and should receive assistance, from international aid bodies; however, I think the blanket policy of turning over foodstuffs to the government of NK (as SK, the US, and China all have done in the past) exacerbates the issue. Instead, we should require anti-corruption measures occur in concert with the aid distribution. How we do that - I don't know. =(

Grace said...

Everyone is aware of the corruption problem and the issue of food not getting to the "common people." Previously, the Red Cross went and personally distributed the food to the people so that they could ensure that it wasn't being siphoned off by the army and government. But who knows if the people could really keep the food after the aid workers left. And from what I remember, the aid groups were kicked out of the country a while back and I don't know if the DPRK government has allowed them back in...

Erin Robinson said...

I agree that it's not as simple as giving them food aid. I think the propaganda issue that the article mentions is another aspect people trying to use food aid as a bargaining chip will run into. It depends on how closely the leaders and negotiators stick to their propaganda. If they believe that it's unpatriotic to accept food aid, especially if they themselves aren't feeling the pinch, then I can imagine it will not work well as a bargaining chip, especially not if we place restrictions on it. On the other hand, without the restrictions, there's no way to encourage the food to go to the right places, so there's only a limited gain in giving it at all.

anthropositor said...

Poor or rich, urban or rural, the North Korean people are so solidly behind Kim Il Sung that even major famines can't turn it around. We must find more ways to get alternative perspectives persuasively to the populace.

It is not a matter of food. It is a matter of ideas, and the free exchange thereof. This is a danger in any country in which the dissemination of news and information is tightly controlled, either by an iron-fisted regime, or by great media empires inexorably being controlled by fewer and fewer major communications giants.

Many, many areas of the world are experiencing an intellectual famine which will continue until these issues are addressed. I do not make little of the plight of the starving, but indoctination and fanaticism pose an even greater, if less apparent danger.

Eureka Ideas Unlimited