The Final Chapter

[In order to bring up-to-date our website readers who are not CanKor Report subscribers, we are posting the introductions of the last three issues for your information. Here follows the introduction to the last CanKor Report #350, dated 27 July 2013, the 60th Anniversary of the Armistice Agreement.  –CanKor]

Dear Friends,

Exactly 13 years after the first CanKor newsletter was sent out to a handful of subscribers on 25 July 2000, we have reached the end of the road with this CanKor Report number 350. Cordial expressions of thanks and regret about the closing of CanKor continue to reach us. Many of them are directed towards me personally. I wish to quote two of them here, because each author has been an important mentor of mine.

The first is from David B. Dewitt, currently Vice-President of Programs at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo. David was my faculty advisor when I did my fellowship year at York University in Toronto:

“I, too, am saddened by the pending termination of CanKor. You provide an important contribution and service to those interested in not just the Korean Peninsula but also in the larger Asia Pacific context. And you and your team have done this with focus, determination and integrity for so many years. Just at a time when some mix of both rhetoric by some and indifference by others seems to be emerging, your lens would have been all that much more important. Although CanKor may be winding down, I trust that it doesn’t mean that we won’t regularly or at least occasionally be hearing from you.”

The second comes from Baldwin Sjollema, who was a role model for me when he headed the highly controversial World Council of Churches’ Programme to Combat Racism in the 1970s:

“What you and your wife have done over these past years through CanKor is exactly what I think the ecumenical movement is about: serving with conviction and compassion the wider human community in its almost endless struggle for justice and peace. The Korean issue is one of the toughest in today’s world. You have set in motion something, and something will have to take its place! With your service you have made a real contribution, which is appreciated by many people like myself, especially because nobody else did it. I am most grateful to you and express my special gratitude to you.”

As much as I take pride in such heartfelt approbation, I cannot in good conscience take all the credit for what CanKor is and was. Some of those who were involved in the past are mentioned in “CanKor history” on our website. We had powerful moral and material support from many friends, colleagues, contributors, volunteers and donors. Let me just mention a few of them here: Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Canada quietly feeding North Koreans? by Erich Weingartner

Without much fanfare, several countries have made modest donations to the WFP for food distribution in the DPRK. Surprisingly, one of these is Canada. Readers may remember that in response to a request by CanKor, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) last May indicated that “Canada has not made any further commitments to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance beyond those made between 2007 and 2009 through the World Food Programme.” (See: Will Canada Provide Humanitarian Aid to the DPRK?)

It turns out that isn’t quite accurate. The DPRK “Project Profile” on CIDA’s own website, dated 17 February 2011, indicates that Canada pledged $2,500,000 for food aid to the DPRK via the WFP. (See: Project profile for Food Assistance in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – WFP 2011) It also states that the grant is for 2011-2013.

Meanwhile, the WFP website indicates that Canada contributed $2,502,503 for the WFP’s current emergency operation in DPRK, designed to target the 3.5 million people most at risk of serious damage to their health as a result of the current food shortages. (See: WFP Operations page for DPRK)

Our request for clarification to CIDA has remained unanswered for the past two weeks. Meanwhile, Abdurrahim Siddiqui, the Deputy-Country Director for WFP Pyongyang offered this clarification in an email message to CanKor: Read the rest of this entry »

Will Canada Provide Humanitarian Aid to the DPRK?

CFGB aid to Kyongsong (photo by E. Weingartner)

With DPRK embassies the world over requesting food aid from NGOs and governmental agencies, we were curious as to whether there might be a Canadian response. In response to a letter sent to Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation by CanKor friend Jim Vavra of Calgary, CIDA’s Regional Director General, Asia Directorate, Syed Sajjadur Rahman wrote the following:

On behalf of the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, I am responding to your recent messages in which you inquire about aid provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to North Korea.

CIDA does not provide, and has no plans to provide, bilateral development assistance to North Korea. Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #7


In which Erich Weingartner challenges Pak Kim Li about the apparent contradiction between the DPRK’s request for technical and development assistance and the Juche ideology of self-reliance. (First published in CanKor Report 307-308, 12 May 2008.)


Erich Heinz Weingartner: So you welcome the transfer of knowledge from foreign partners to your country?

Pak Kim Li: Yes, we put great value on such cooperation.

EHW: Like language instruction?

PKL: Yes. And other topics as well.

EHW: What about technical assistance? Read the rest of this entry »

OPINION: WHY IS CANADA RECOGNIZING NORTH KOREA?

[The following opinion piece was written by Charles Burton, Department of Political Science, Brock University, in June of 2000 and appeared in CanKor Report #02.]

Earlier this month it was announced that Lloyd Axworthy will be meeting with the Foreign Minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Paek Nam Sun at the ASEAN Regional Forum meetings this week. This meeting should lead to Canada’s diplomatic recognition of the North Korean regime and start the process to eventual full diplomatic relations.

Kim Jong Il’s government of North Korea has little to recommend it. There is no democracy or political freedom of any kind in the DPRK. The national economy has suffered from negative growth for several years. Things are very bad there. How bad it really is is hard to reckon due to the unreliability of information about this country. However some statistics estimate that due to starvation, malnutrition and disease, the population of the North has dropped over 5% in recent years. Moreover, North Korea is without question the most politically repressive regime in the world today. There are a very high number of political prisoners in the North. We know that torture and brutality is the norm in North Korean prisons. Plainly put, human rights do not exist in the DPRK. On top of all this, the DPRK has an advanced missile program with nuclear potential. Kim Jong Il’s regime is sufficiently unpredictable that the world has cause for concern that North Korea might actually deploy its weaponry of mass destruction if push comes to shove.

Nevertheless Canadian recognition of the DPRK is the right thing to do. We should not simply shun the DPRK because it has a very bad government with a menacing military capability. There are after all millions of ordinary people living there under appalling conditions. Under the circumstances there is probably little that Canada can do to help them, but standing idly by in the face of a humanitarian tragedy of the proportions of that in North Korea is not the Canadian way. History will judge us badly if we continue to ignore the reality that the Kim Jong Il regime is the regime that our Government must engage if Canada is to do the right thing by the people of North Korea.

Canada already gives food aid to North Korea through multilateral agencies such as the World Food Programme, and NGOs such as the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. North Korea is highly dependent on such aid, much of it donated by the United States through UN agencies. However what North Korea needs more than handouts is technical assistance to reconstruct its devastated economy. For this reason we need to establish diplomatic relations with the DPRK so our Canadian International Development Agency can be present there. We need to send Canadian agricultural specialists and economists into North Korea to assess the situation and propose measures to effect recovery of the DPRK’s rural and industrial sectors. North Koreans should be brought out to Canada for training. If our experience in the early days of recognition of the People’s Republic of China is any guide, these people will return to the DPRK from their Canadian experience as agents of change.

Diplomatic relations will allow Canada to have regular engagement with the North Korean government and military. We should seek opportunities for trade. Hopefully such political, military and economic engagement by Canada and the other like-minded nations now broaching closer engagement with the DPRK, will bring North Korea ’round to the possibility of gradual re-integration into the global community. Italy and Australia have recently recognized the DPRK and others are expected to follow shortly, so Canada will not be alone in this.

The process is not likely to go smoothly. Aside from its staggering disregard for the welfare of its own people, the North Korean regime has a well-established record of reneging on political commitments and defaulting on loan payments. North Korea’s political doctrine of *juche* promotes national self-reliance with a corollary of extreme suspicion of the intentions of outsiders. Naturally, the DPRK regime hopes that Canadian aid will strengthen its hold on power and not weaken it. Nevertheless, Canada has an obligation to engage in a prudent policy of political and economic engagement of the North for strategic and humanitarian reasons. The realities of North Korea’s potentially volatile offensive military capacity and the desperate need of its population for fundamental human security makes Canada’s choice plain.

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