There Can Be No Humanitarian Aid for an Inhumane State

  • By Kang Chol-hwan from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk

    August 25, 2010 12:17

    Kang Chol-hwan

    Calls to give rice aid to North Korea on Sunday came only five months after the North sank the Navy corvette Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. They came too soon. Even while the Sunshine Policy was underway, the North attacked a South Korean patrol boat and killed six sailors. If it encounters no problems even after taking the live of 46 South Korean troops, the North will not hesitate to harm South Korean soldiers and civilians whenever it sees fit.

    The term "humanitarian aid" is always used when helping out the North Korean regime. But there can be no humanitarian aid to an inhumane state. Kim Jong-il, in dispensing humanitarian aid from overseas, is interested in nothing but feeding the military and enriching himself and his cronies.

    The underprivileged never benefited from the aid provided by the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. They only fled the country in even greater numbers. Instead, the aid went to those in power and the military. It may seem implausible that nothing at all reached the underprivileged, but the fact is that almost no foreign aid was distributed to the people for free.  

    A senior North Korean defector said, "The entire food shipment from one foreign aid organization was shipped to the 11th Hospital for the People's Army, from which it was distributed to be administered to undernourished soldiers." A foreign aid official who accompanied the shipment to the North, uncertain if the medicines of nutrition were properly distributed, made an abrupt request to visit a kindergarten in the area, which was accepted. That evening, the military hospital rushed food to the kindergarten to satisfy the inspector, and later it took it all back, according to the defector.

    A South Korean pastor who helped children in North Hamgyong Province by having a bread factory built, stayed there for three months to make sure the children were well fed. When he visited six months later, he was dismayed to find that the children were just skin and bones.

    I had an opportunity to discuss things with China's North Korea experts in China. "North Korea has not reformed or opened itself and tested nuclear devices. Doesn't this indicate that China failed to control the North?" I asked. A Chinese academic got angry. "Millions of North Koreans starved to death in the late 1990s because China did not provide food aid," he said. "The Chinese leadership stopped providing food aid on purpose to lead the North to reform and opening. And on the brink of its collapse, the South Korean government rushed to the North Korean regime's aid with food supplies so it survived another decade without reform and developing nuclear devices and missiles instead."

    Of course it is a decent impulse to want to help North Koreans. But we must not close our eyes to the fact that the food will go to the military. Unmonitored aid has caused a vicious cycle because it weakens hard-working market traders and strengthens the state. The more aid is given to the North, the more serious oppression becomes, most North Korean defectors here say.

    Before discussing aid to North Korea, we must establish why the enormous aid we gave the North in the past never reached the people. We have to work out failsafe ways of not repeating that mistake first. It will not be too late to aid the North when it accept every last one of the criteria we establish.

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