Update on Humanitarian Aid to North Korea by Dr. Victor Hsu

16 11 2011

(Ecumenical Forum for Korea, 14 Nov. 2011) This past week I attended an International Conference on Humanitarian and Development Aid to North Korea jointly sponsored by the Korean Sharing Movement and Gyonggi Province and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.  This is the 7th in a series of international events organized for the purpose of encouraging concerned people to continue to provide aid to North Korea on humanitarian grounds…

…At the conference we learned that the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in North Korea.  We heard reports from the Country Director of the WFP in North Korea, a NGO representative from North Korea and an American NGO representative who headed a food assessment mission in North Korea this year.  Together they presented a very serious picture of the worsening plight of the children and the people.  Among the information that I learned:

1.     North Koreans, especially children, urgently need outside aid to fight terrible levels of malnutrition.

2.    Six million North Koreans urgently need food aid.

3.    Nearly half of North Korean children were chronically malnourished.

4.    North Korea has a shortage of one million tons of food a year. Supply shortages means that daily per person rations from the public distribution system (PDS) were halved in July to 200 grams.

5.    Rice yields are about 2.8 tonnes per hectare, about half that in most countries, with soil degradation, lack of fertilisers and limited mechanisation blamed.

6.    The international community is not giving enough. The world must be reminded that the most vulnerable groups in North Korea are victims of a situation over which they have no control.

7.    The US government asked US NGOs to send their own team in May ? to assess the humanitarian situation. But despite findings similar to those above, the USG has yet to announce a decision on aid. The five American NGOs recommended urgent shipments.

8.    David Austin, North Korea program director for Mercy Corps, said the NGOssaw pockets of malnutrition “throughout the country” and that people there “are starving to death.”

9.    The United States, along with other nations, made token contribution to flood assistance in mid-September. Washington provided a grant $900,000 in flood relief for the North through five US NGOs.

10. The position of South Korea remains that there is no nationwide food crisis of the kind that killed many thousands in the late 1990s.

11.  In April, the United Nations appealed for $218 million in emergency aid. Only one-third of that amount has been pledged.

12. According to the head of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, who made her first visit in October, North Korea will continue to face food shortages unless its government addresses “major structural issues” and attracts investment. She also insisted that the responsibility for solving repeated food crises lay with the country’s government and its need to tackle the underlying causes of poor agricultural production.

13. Ms. Amos painted a devastating portrait of a nation with chronic malnutrition problems that have stunted the growth of much of the population. In northern parts of the country as many as 45 per cent of children under age 5 are malnourished, while nationwide the figure is one third.

The resumption of talks between the USA and North Korea on October 24-25 in Geneva has given optimism to a resumption of humanitarian aid by the international community.  In the 6-party talks, it was agreed in September 2005 that if North Korea would abandon its nuclear programs there would be economic assistance and diplomatic incentives from other parties to the six-party talks, which include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, and the United States.

In a meeting with the U.N. Secretary General in New York, on Monday November 4, South Korea’s unification minister, Yu Woo-ik, said the ROK is consideringsending humanitarian aid to North Korea through third channels such as WFP.

The Unification Ministry says South Korea stopped sending direct aid to Pyongyang in November 2010 after it accused North Korea of shelling Yeonpyeong Island, killing four South Koreans. In the past, South Korea has sent aid through the WFP, the World Health Organization and other international agencies.

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Russia Expects N.Korea to Collapse by 2020

8 11 2011

(Chosun Ilbo, 04 Nov. 2011) The Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Russia’s foremost national policy think tank, takes the imminent collapse of the North Korean regime as a given in a special report published recently. IMEMO concludes that Korean reunification led by South Korea coincides with Russia’s national interests.

IMEMO spent years to prepare the report, which is part of the Russian government’s 20-year master plan and was published in September.

◆ The End of North Korea

The 480-page special report obtained by the Chosun Ilbo has five pages referring to the Korean Peninsula. It says the regime’s collapse is “accelerating” and that although reunification may not be fully achieved, the two Koreas will take “actual steps” toward reunification in the next two decades.

IMEMO believes the 2012-2020 transfer of power from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to his son Jong-un will trigger the collapse of the North. The leadership crisis will lead to a power struggle between “bureaucrats” with foreign business connections and “military and security officials” with no outside links, the report said.

Then over the following decade, a provisional North Korean government would be established under the aegis of the international community so that the North comes under South Korean control, while the North’s military will be disarmed and modernization get underway, the report forecast. IMEMO said the North Korean economy will gradually be absorbed into South Korea’s in the process and that around 1 million North Korean supporters of the old regime will flee to either China or Russia.

◆ South Korean-Led Reunification ‘Beneficial’

IMEMO said the emergence of a reunified Korea led by South Korea would have a “positive effect” on Russia’s position in the Asia-Pacific region. And with the situation on the Korean Peninsula stabilizing, Russia would “strengthen its diplomatic power in the Far East” and gain a “reliable partner,” it added.

This would create opportunities for Russian businesses and the government to participate in massive transport, energy and industrial projects and create new demand for Russian energy, timber, metal and petrochemical exports, as well as machinery.

A diplomatic source said, “It has been an established theory that Russia and other regional powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula favor the status quo rather than reunification, but here is a top Russian think tank publicly welcoming reunification led by South Korea.”

◆ Economic Growth

IMEMO forecast reunified Korea to see annual GDP growth of 3.5 percent before reunification (2011-2020), 2 percent during the process of reunification (early 2020s) and 5-6 percent in the final stage (late 2020s). The think tank projected that reunification would lay the groundwork for a new leap for the Korean economy.

Korea’s GDP, which stood at $1 trillion in 2010, would rise to $1.7 trillion by 2020 and $2.3 trillion by 2030, IMEMO projected. Reunified Korea would have a per-capita GDP of $30,000, and its population would stand at between 76 million and 77 million.

The economic development of reunified Korea would have a strong correlation with the formation of a “three-sided” system in the region that includes China and Japan, according to the report. This would boost trade with other regions. By the early 2020s, North Korea’s rapid economic development would lead to a trade deficit, but reunified Korea would be able to achiev