Victor Hsu: “Separate humanitarian issue from politics”

[CanKor Brain Trust member Prof Victor Hsu was interviewed by The Korea Times correspondent Chung Min-uck on 25 March 2013. –CanKor]

Victor Hsu of Korea Development Institute (Photo by The Korea Times)

Victor Hsu of Korea Development Institute (Photo by The Korea Times)

Victor Hsu, 63, director of International Aid and Education at the state-run Korea Development Institute (KDI), believes humanitarian aid should be given to North Korea regardless of the political situation.

“Humanitarian aid should be separate from political considerations,” Hsu said in an interview with The Korea Times. “The humanitarian principle suggests that one must give assistance because there is need, and a human being is suffering or ill. So, the humanitarian imperative should be foremost.”

“Coming from the NGO community, I would like to emphasize that very strongly,” he added.

The KDI professor worked for World Vision International from 2005 to 2010, providing humanitarian aid to North Korea.

He was the national director for North Korea, overseeing various types of aid given to the isolated nation. Hsu was also with the U.S. National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, and visited the North numerous times during his career, since the 1980s.

“The operational environment is different in North Korea from what one might experience in other countries in the sense that there has to be very close cooperation with the government,” he said. “Without government approval, nothing can be done in terms of humanitarian intervention. But once an agreement is reached, it actually proceeds quite smoothly and, in fact, because of the facilitation of the government, so things tend to improve and proceed more efficiently than otherwise.”

Touching on the United Nations Human Rights Council’s launch of a Commission of Inquiry (COI), a probe into human rights violations in North Korea, Hsu raised concerns over its inaccessibility to North Korea.

“Setting up a COI is good because it reflects the grave concern of the international community,” he said. “But like the previous United Nations Special Rapporteur, they would not have access. So a COI, without data, without reliable information, without reliable cooperation of the North Korean government, I think it would be highly problematic.”

“Whatever report is made after the probe will not be authentic. There will always be a feel of superficiality,” he added.

As an alternative, the Taiwanese-American expert suggested that non-government sector personnel actively engage in the North Korea human rights issue.

“A COI is official and North Korea is accusing it of being politically motivated. So it is going to be difficult for the U.N. body to work properly,” he said. “The best approach would be through some other form including the private sector so that there can be more discussion of about human rights issues.”

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