[This is from a currently serving USG person who must, perforce, remain anonymous, responding to the Haggard/Noland post of April 7.]
Food aid should be carefully monitored by Korean-speaking US citizens. That said, let me share a few notes on Marcus’s good discussion:
1) WFP penetration of the northeast and northern provinces was less than many other places. Many of the non-covered counties were in North Hamgyong, where the vast majority of defectors come from;
2) Certainly no surprise that those who have fled the country might believe (with cause) that the military takes more than its share of goodies generally and report that, with or without evidence of diversion of food aid;
3) Even at its peak, aid was targeted to children and pregnant women. How many defectors are in these categories? I am GLAD if people who were not supposed to get aid never got aid.
4) Marcus has no data at all, from his defector survey, on the ability of aid to generate “good will,” and I frankly think he should therefore NOT speculate on it. We DO have some clue how those who actually received aid feel about it, since they have described their feelings to vistors like me and to aid workers. But I don’t believe we have good, reliable, statistically representative data from this group of recipients, nor can we be confident that what they report to us reflects their true feelings rather than a “politically correct” answer.
Finally, I cannot stress strongly enough the danger of listening to a self-selected defector group in an effort to draw ANY broad conclusions about conditions inside a country. I have first hand experience, conducting HUNDREDS of interviews of new refugee arrivals on the Cambodia border in 1990 in order to gain some understanding of what was going on inside Cambodia. They did not lie to me, and yet if I had relied on their stories to draw sweeping conclusions about conditions inside Cambodia for the average Cambodian, I would have been far off the mark.
Two examples from our own country also make the point:
A) According to extensive, statistically representative survey data of the American people, they believe, living in a free society with open access to information, that our federal government spends 10 percent of its budget on foreign aid, when reality is less than 1 percent. They are similarly FAR OFF THE MARK when it comes to projections of what the govt spends on education, health care, welfare, social security, and defense.
B) The 535 members of the 111th Congress apparently had only one or two children on active duty in the US military. And how many of your readers know someone, personally, who has died in Iraq or Afghanistan?
- Food Aid Debate – Introduction
- The North Korea Food Aid Dilemma by Chris Nelson
- Reaction to the NK food crisis by Mitchell Reiss
- South Korea’s Humanitarian Dilemma by Victor Hsu
- Commentary on Hsu article by David Straub
- Chairman Kerry Urges Resumption Of Carefully Monitored Food Aid For North Korea
- The WFP’s Findings Parsed, by Marcus Noland
- South Korean Churches under fire for sending aid to North
- Trapped in a Devil’s Bargain
- Feed vulnerable North Koreans say Brookings’ Cohen and Abramowitz