The Korea Herald


[Sung Jae-sang] Food aid to North Korea

By 류근하

Published : June 6, 2011 - 18:45

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On June 2, Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, reportedly told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that the South Korean government doesn’t want the U.S. providing food aid to North Korea. He also announced that the U.S. would resume humanitarian food assistance to Pyongyang without political considerations.

We heartily welcome this policy shift of the U.S. government, even if the aid offer is reportedly modest and has a few conditions attached.

We are ashamed that the Lee Myung-bak government has even opposed the U.S. offering food aid to the suffering North Korean brethren.

It would have been much better for the Korean Peninsula if the Obama administration had actively engaged Pyongyang and provided humanitarian aid to the North much earlier, as we expected.

Also, if the Lee Myung-bak government had not persisted in its hardline policy toward North Korea, including the stopping of a large-scale food aid that its predecessor provided every year, the current dangerous confrontation and the two fatal military clashes between the South and the North would have been avoided.

The United Nations World Food Program said that North Korea currently needs 450,000 tons of outside food aid to feed 6 million of its people out of a 24 million population, and called for emergency aid from member countries. Reports from world charity organizations also said that a third of all North Korean children have stunted growth because of malnourishment, which “also permanently affects their brain development.”

Many countries including EU countries, Russia and Brazil have positively responded to the U.N. call to aid North Korea. The New York Times said in its editorial of April 30 that the U.S. should lead food assistance to Pyongyang even if Seoul opposes it.

The hardline policy of the Lee Myung-bak government, apparently designed to pressure North Korea and induce the collapse of its regime, has almost failed, only making Pyongyang more dependent on China for its survival. It has also made chances of improving the deadlocked South-North relationship slimmer during Lee’s remaining tenure. The big powers’ influence on the Korean Peninsula will also increase, with adverse implications for future reunification of Korea.

The Lee Myung-bak government is urged to resume its food aid to the North so as not to incur international criticism for its inhuman callousness to the sufferings of North Korean compatriots, and improve its relations with Pyongyang which are at their worst now. Also, expanded U.S. humanitarian aid will go a long way toward winning the hearts of North Korean people, which will also serve its strategic interests in Far East Asia.

By Sung Jae-sang

Sung Jae-sang is co-representative of the Good Senior Citizens Association. He can be reached at ― Ed.