Ottawa Round Table Part 4 – CanKor Brain Trust on the Current Situation in the DPRK

CanKor Brain Trust on the Current Situation in the DPRK

by Paul Evans, Victor Hsu, Hazel Smith, Hark Kroll, Jeremy Paltiel and Jack Kim

Ottawa Round Table on Humanitarian Aid in the Current North Korean Context, 5 March 2012

Q: What dangers and opportunities can you foresee in the evolving situation?

Paul Evans, Professor, Liu Institute for Global Issues; Director, Institute of Asian Research, UBC:

Why assume that the KJU era will be any different? My only glimpse into the fog is the signal from the group that attended the six-month training program here that it was business as usual for a second phase, with no changes expected. I had dinner with a DPRK diplomat in Bangkok as part of an ARF meeting and more or less out of the blue he asked me how the UBC training program had gone and how we could find ways to get more DPRK students to Canada in future. Really out of context and it may be that he only guessed at a connection and my interest by seeing my card. But…

Victor Hsu, Visiting Professor, School of Public Policy and Management , Korea Development Institute (KDI), Seoul:

From my perspective, assuming that ROK maintains its current attempt to reverse the LMB policy, opportunities are going to increase. I don’t believe there will be any continuation of refusal to provide humanitarian aid. Both main parties in ROK are framing renewed engagement, as is the USA. EU will follow suit.

Hazel Smith, Professor of Resilience and Security, Cranfield University, UK:

The DPRK government is far from unique in being culpable of poor governance and failing to meet the food needs of its people. Arguing that the DPRK humanitarian and food crises are unique is wrong in advocacy terms because it reinforces the politicisation of aid to the DPRK in its emphasis on the ‘exceptionally awful’ case of the DPRK.

The reasons for food shortages and economic failure in the DPRK are prosaic. Like very large numbers of governments, the DPRK government lacks oil (to generate revenue), suffered the withdrawal of external subsidies, has an obsolescent economic infrastructure in every respect, and is governed by a non-democratic, economically illiterate and inept government. 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 »

North Korean Refugees in China: Looking at the Evidence

The DPRK-PRC Border, near Tumen, PRC (Summer 2010)

The debate on humanitarian aid to the DPRK rages, both here on CanKor as well as outside of CanKor’s virtual walls. However, there is one aspect of this unfortunate situation that is often overlooked in the ongoing dialogue: what happens to those who are affected by hunger.

The previous famine in North Korea brought many changes to the country, but none was possibly more remarkable than the catalyst it provided for the largest exodus of people the country had seen since the Korean War. The numbers betray this story: pre-famine, the Ministry of Unification tells us that there were less than 1,000 North Koreans settled in the ROK. As of April 17, there are more than 21,000. Read the rest of this entry »

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