April 27, 2011 13:40
An American preacher a while ago told me about the family of an alcoholic he was looking after. The man was drunk every day and terrorized his family, and his children couldn't study because they were so poor. When the preacher's congregation collected money for the family, it only got worse, aggravating the man's violence and the misery of the children. As a last resort, the police intervened to separate him from the children who, freed from the shadow of their father, were able to return to normal education. "I suspect North Korea's Kim Jong-il is just like the alcoholic I tried to help," said the preacher. It was an amazing insight from a man who had never been to the North.
But Kim Jong-il is the father of one of the poorest countries in the world and worse than a drunk. More than a million of his people starved to death in the mid-1990s, but he has no regrets. Had he considered their suffering even one bit, he should have ended the system of collective farming, which was the cause of the famine, and adopted Chinese-style private farming. But the regime cannot allow that because that would mean losing control over the farmers, who account for half the population. The only way to prevent any kind of democratic movement is to enslave the majority farmers.
A doctor can cure a patient only if he diagnoses the disease correctly and treats it based on an accurate prescription. North Koreans are hungry today not because they lack outside aid, but because the North refuses to reform and open up. Under a system in which the privileged around Kim Jong-il alone enjoy all kinds of luxuries and the rest are enslaved by them, outside aid has no meaning other than reinforcing the solidarity of the privileged. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who visited the North on Tuesday, shifted the responsibility for the North's food shortages to the South. This is absurd.
There are two ways to help the North Korean people. One is the way adopted by Dr. Stephen Linton of the Eugene Bell Foundation, whose staff risk clashes with the North Korean authorities by personally transporting and distributing medicine and other supplies to the people who need them. South Korea, by contrast, has provided the North with an enormous amount of aid, but how much if any of it has reached those in need instead of being diverted to the military is not known. If private organizations want to help the North with taxpayers' money, they should be able to ensure that all aid goods really go to the suffering North Korean people.
The second way is to use aid as a weapon to improve the human rights of the North Koreans. If aid is to be delivered unmonitored, then other conditions must be attached. As West Germany bought political prisoners from East Germany in the past, so the South should give food aid to the North only if the North releases political prisoners and repatriates South Korean abduction victims and prisoners of war. Unconditional humanitarian aid to an inhuman regime only makes things worse for the people.
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