Saturday, April 05, 2008

North Korea Shortage Worsens

I know this is a topic that was previously discussed by Axel (here), but it is one that I find fascinating and wanted to revisit and comment on myself.
In case you haven't heard North Korea is once again in a food shortage.
The World Food Program has warned (Mar 2008) that the North could face the worst food shortage seen in quite some time. Since severe floods swept through last summer, destroying over 10% of the North's crops the country has yet to fully recover. In this article from Radio-Netherlands Everyday North Koreans are failing to report to work citing hunger as the cause. Coupons are being introduced in Pyongyang where hunger and malnutrition could lead to death. According to (this) article from the associated press, the shortage has even begun to touch even the communist country's "elite class" (I know it sounds like an oxymoron to me too) who find themselves under ration also. What makes this even more dangerous is the fact that tensions between North Korea, South Korea and the US seem to heightened at this time.
Food shortages are not a unique occurrence in North Korea so why is this different then all of the other times?
In a 2006 BBC News article titled "North Korea Food Shortage Critical" the issue of North Korea's seemingly perpetual food shortage again was once again placed on the table. At this time it was as a result of
President Kim Jong-Il's nuclear test, which prompted many in the international community to think twice before sending aid to the North. Prior to that BBC in 2005 published an article in which they discussed how North Korea's geography contributes to its chronic food problems. From the BBC: "North Korea is not an agrarian country," said Kathi Zellweger, a frequent visitor to the country with aid organization Caritas. It is mostly rugged mountain terrain, and only about 18% is arable." According to a 2005 USA today Article on the same issue the World Food Program at that time fed a quarter of North Korea's Population. It said that the Korean government farm system had Fallen apart and as a result famine was believed to have killed around 2 million people.
In the April 4th edition of the New York Times Kim Jung Il was quoted as saying that he didn't need any help form the South and called the New president of south Korea an impostor and a U.S. sycophant. A statement that would make his people's situation even more difficult to improve. Also, Don't forget that the "dear leader" will not forgo his big- birthday- bash (yes thats 3 b's) Food shortage or not. In 1990's during the last great famine in North Korea, while millions were dying, plans for Kim Jung Il's birthday celebrations carried on.

So if it is true that North Korea is not an agrarian nation, its farm system is all but dead, it relies nearly completely on the outside world to feed a significant part of its population and its leader (who, obviously holds his poor in such low regard), is more than willing to use the starvation of his people as a bargaining chip to get what he wants then why hold back aid to the people of North Korea? The starvation of innocent people should not depend on whim of its leader. If food aid continued to come into North Korea no matter what kind of stance Kim Jung Il takes on denuclearizing wouldn't that take away a major negotiating weapon? I could not understand why the west and South Korea punish the North Korean People for the actions of actions of its leader. Does not with holding food aid to a starving people make our governments just as culpable as their own government in their demise?
I'm anxious to hear a response on this one

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am the first to agree that we must feed hungry people wherever they are. Innocents should not be used as weapons or political tools, but the sad reality is that this is the case in North Korea. What troubles me is the ongoing nature of the problem without any remedy in sight. Is North Korea to be the world's step-child forever, reliant on the rest of the world to feet itself? This is not a viable country.