The European Commission will give emergency food aid to North Korea

[The European Union (EU) has taken the plunge. Will others follow? In the following Press Release by the European Commission (EC) dated Brussels, 04 July 2011, Kristalina Georgieva, EU commissioner for international co-operation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, outlines the terms of a decision to supply $14.5 million in food aid to the World Food Programme (WFP). Special monitoring conditions have been negotiated, with priority given to feeding children on brink of starvation, mothers, hospital patients and elderly. –CanKor.]

A North Korean child (photo by EU)

The European Commission will provide emergency food aid to more than half a million people at risk of dying from serious malnutrition in North Korea, amid growing fears of a worsening hunger crisis.

The terms for delivering the food assistance are unprecedented, with strict monitoring procedures in place.

The objective of the €10 million aid package is to lift around 650,000 people, mainly in the Northern and Eastern provinces of the country, out of the hunger zone during the most difficult period of the worst year for food production in recent times. The next main cereal harvest is due in October.

Food assistance will reach children under five who have already been hospitalised with severe acute malnutrition. Children in residential care will also be fed, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, hospital patients and the elderly. Read the rest of this entry »

Food aid diversion: Why it does NOT matter by Rüdiger Frank

[Dr. Rüdiger Frank is Professor and Chair of East Asian Economy and Society, as well as Deputy Head of the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Vienna, Austria. – CanKor.]

Donated food in a Chonnae nursery (photo by Erich Weingartner)

One of the things I have, for years, been having difficulties to understand is the discussion of (staple) food diversion. It is of course an important political issue if we consider that donors like to give their resources for a specified purpose and discontinue donating if it cannot be proven that everything went as promised. Fair enough.

But from an economic perspective of feeding North Koreans, food diversion does not matter much.

Let me explain.

  1. Most importantly, food aid is not the only source of food in North Korea. It is only supposed to cover a gap between demand and supply. If “non-deserving groups” get no food aid, they will take their share from the other sources such as domestic production or regular imports, thus reducing the food amount available for deserving groups. In the end, it is a zero sum game. What matters is the total amount of food available in North Korea. If it is high enough, the poor will eat. If it is not, they will be the first to suffer. It’s as simple as that. Read the rest of this entry »

South Korean NGO makes appeal for immediate food aid to DPRK

On June 8th, an organization called the “Korean NGO’s Voice for Humanitarian Assistance to the DPRK” held an inauguration ceremony and made an appeal for immediate food aid to the DPRK. In its appeal, the NGO difficulty of providing aid under the current South Korean policy. Excerpt below:

Several religious organizations and non-government have urged South Korean Government to resume immediate food assistance and have pledged that nongovernment organization will also initiate food assistance and interventions to relieve the current food crisis in North Korea. However, it remains unclear whether the food assistance and interventions from non-government organizations in South Korea can start. Nongovernment organizations in South Korea need a special permission from Soth Korean Government to contact North Korean or provide any assistance to North Korea. The current South Korean Government, having the hardline policy toward North Korea, has not been enthusiastic about providing food assistance to North Korea. Further, it is reported that South Korean government has opposed the US government providing food aid to North Korea.

Read the full appeal here.

For more information please contact:

Chang Il PARK
Representative, The Voice of Korean NGO for Humanitarian Assistance to the DPRK
2F, 123, Chebu-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
Tel: ++82-2-723-9475
Fax: ++82-2-723-9476
E-mail: dhsotong(at)

Food aid discussion less informed than necessary by Victor Hsu

[It was CanKor Brain Trust member Prof. Victor W. Hsu‘s article in the Korea Times newspaper that set off a lively debate about the pros and cons of food aid to the DPRK. The full text of that article can be found here. Victor Hsu is Visiting Professor at the Korean Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management in Seoul and offers CanKor further details that should not be missed about the food aid discussion. –CanKor.]

Prof. Victor W.C. Hsu

The current food aid discussion is not as informed as it should be. The following dimensions should be part of the considerations in any debate about food aid to North Korea.

1. It is not sufficient to say without explanation that the last round of food aid by the US government (July 2008 to March 2009) was terminated because North Korea expelled food aid monitors. The program ended in tandem with two developments:

(a) the WFP was unable to obtain an agreement on the monitoring terms after almost one year of negotiations. Since it was responsbile for 80% of the amount of food aid, it didn’t make sense to drag the negotiations on. The proposal to shift the amount of aid to the NGOs which were implementing smoothly its 20% didn’t receive unanimity among the other stakeholders: USG, DPRK and WFP. Read the rest of this entry »

Should we feed North Korea? The case AGAINST by Bruce Klinger

[Under the title “Food Aid to North Korea: Time Is Not Right”, Bruce Klinger published this commentary in as Heritage Foundation WebMemo #3229 on 18 April 2011. Klingner is Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation. –CanKor.]

North Korea has again appealed for food aid to alleviate the suffering of its people. Teams from the World Food Program and non-government organizations (NGOs) have chronicled the country’s abysmal nutritional deficits, particularly for children and the elderly. Pyongyang told visiting inspection teams that it is now willing to accept strict monitoring requirements to prevent further diversion of food aid to its military, but doubts remain. However, North Korea’s need for food is not unique amidst other pressing global needs. Most importantly, Pyongyang’s refusal to implement economic reform and its belligerence against the very countries from which it seeks aid should preclude it from receiving large-scale aid. Read the rest of this entry »

The Logic and Illogic of Food Aid by Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland

[If you have not already read this article either at the Peterson Institute’s North Korea: Witness to Transformation blog or at 38North of the US-Korea Institute SAIS, we highly recommend this clear-speaking clarification and debunking of common arguments against food aid to the DPRK. We present here only the four statements (or myths) that are dealt with in the article and encourage you to read Haggard and Noland’s commentary here. –CanKor.]

As the food aid discussions heat up, we have been engaged in a number of conversations with friends–and critics–about the logic of granting food aid. Some of the arguments floating around need much closer scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »

South Korea’s Internal Division over Humanitarian Aid to North Korea and North Korean Human Rights, by Jhe Seong-ho

[Jhe Seong-ho is Professor of Law at Chung-Ang University in Seoul; he is a former Human Rights Ambassador in the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. KOREA FOCUS is a monthly webzine and a quarterly journal published by The Korea Foundation, featuring commentaries and essays on Korean politics, economy, society and culture, as well as relevant international issues. Prof. Jhe’s essay examines the various positions held in South Korean academia, politics and society on the question of whether to provide food aid to the DPRK and if so, how and under what conditions. We highly recommend it as a useful summary of South Korean perspectives. The following is the introduction to the essay. To read the rest, please click on the link at the bottom. –CanKor.]

I. Introduction

The question of humanitarian aid to North Korea has become a major social and political issue in South Korea, pitting liberals against conservatives, and moderates against hard-liners. These groups have taken sharply different positions regarding the distribution of aid to the North, suspected diversion of aid to the North’s military and linking material assistance to other matters concerning inter-Korean relations. These conflicts derive from North Korea’s uncommon status as an entity that will eventually have to be reunified with the South and as a threat to the South’s security. If assistance was intended for a country stricken by natural disaster, there would be no such discord. Read the rest of this entry »

Comment on Chosun Ilbo article by Karin Lee

[Karin J. Lee, Executive Director of the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK) is an experienced NGO aid provider in the DPRK. -Chris Nelson]

Chris, The poll quoted in the Chosun Ilbo article that you sent out last night doesn’t take into account the following considerations:

1) when did the person leave the DPRK? Food monitoring regimes have changed over time. If somebody left earlier, when the monitoring was less exhaustive, their experiences may have been different from somebody who left more recently. In particular the 2008/2009 program had greatly improved monitoring. Read the rest of this entry »

Comment on Chosun Ilbo article by anonymous USG source

[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; Read the rest of this entry »

Comment on Chosun Ilbo article by Marcus Noland

[7 April, Marcus Noland commented on the Chosun Ilbo article  brought for consideration by Chris Nelson.]

For what it’s worth, the numbers reported in the Chosun Ilbo story are in the same ballpark that Steph and I got in our two surveys. These numbers create consternation among elements of the WFP, the “humanitarian community,” and the more pro-engagement parts of say the State Department. I say let’s be honest with ourselves. Here are a few paragraphs from our book:

In both the China-based and South Korea-based surveys, an astonishing share of respondents, roughly half of those surveyed, revealed that they were unaware of the long-standing, large-scale program (table 3.1). Moreover, among respondents who indicated knowledge of the effort, 33 percent of the South Korea survey respondents and only 4 percent of the China survey respondents believed that they had been recipients. Looking only at urban residents (those on the agricultural cooperatives would have been less likely to receive aid), only 3 percent in the China survey and 14 percent of the later, South Korea survey reported being recipients. Read the rest of this entry »

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