Kim Jong Un: I Am NOT My Father

I would like to think that Kim Jong Un listened to my advice and hired a Don Draper type to sex up the regime’s image

abroad. Yes, such visions of grandeur. Bringing us back to reality, however, the DPRK has certainly gone to some great lengths to ameliorate its image abroad, to the point that some have described it as an “extreme makeover.” It all perhaps began with Kim Jong Un complaining about the general disrepair of amusement parks (“pathetic” is supposedly the word used). One has to wonder in opaque North Korea whether Kim was referring to simply the amusement park itself, or really criticizing the way that his father ran the country.

Meet the new boss

Then we have Kim the 3rd walking around accompanied by a mystery woman who we later find out he has married – perhaps even against his father’s wishes. Even if this allegation of filial impiety is not true, Kim Jong Il never trotted out his women in public.

The implication of this rather public announcement is enormous: again, Kim Jong Un is not his father! Then we have a well publicized concert involving trademark infringement of the Mickey Mouse variety and mini-skirts that would have shocked O Jin U if he were still around. We receive word of things like prisoner amnesties. Finally, Ri Yong Ho is sacked. The official cause is illness; the word on the street is power struggle, including fanciful notions of firefights in the inner sanctums of Pyongyang. Ri Yong Ho was supposedly one of the capos in the Kim Jong Il regime. Getting rid of someone like him again is clear signal that a new boss has rolled into town.

At the end of the day, this branding exercise seems a clear play to contrast Kim Jong Un from Kim Jong Il. Perhaps the rumours that Kim Jong Un (and Jang Song Thaek behind him) really want to open the country up. The evidence so far, doesn’t suggest that yet: the border hasn’t been this controlled since the 2008 Olympics and the kwan-li-so system still exists. What isclear is that the regime has, six months after his death, buried Kim Jong Il, set up his statue right beside Kim the 1st, and has all but announced that his era is over. Read the rest of this entry »

50th Anniversary of the World Food Programme

[Today, 50 years ago, on 23 November 1961, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) was founded. The following is a statement by Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, the Hon. Beverley J. Oda. — CanKor.]

Today, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) celebrates its 50th anniversary. For half a century, WFP has been on the front lines of humanitarian situations throughout the world and provided food to more than 100 million of the world’s most vulnerable people. In November 1961, Canada was proud to support the founding of WFP and, today, Canada is the second biggest single country donor to WFP.

The world is facing serious food security challenges. At the present time, an estimated 925 million people suffer from chronic hunger. World food stocks are at the lowest levels ever. This year, higher food prices moved an additional 44 million people into poverty, and increased disasters and crises reduced arable land and food sources.

I commend WFP on its continued efforts to find innovative approaches to integrate nutrition into its programs, increase aid effectiveness, and support local farmers and markets.

I would also like to make special recognition of the staff of WFP and commend them for their dedication and courage. WFP staff work in some of the most challenging environments to reduce hunger, often putting their own lives at risk. Their dedication to ending hunger is an inspiration to us all.

Please join me in celebrating WFP’s 50 years of service to humanity.

Beverley J. Oda
Minister of International Cooperation

Children pay for North Korean famine by Al Jazeera

[Exclusive footage by Reuters shows malnourished children in North Korea’s countryside after winter worsens the country’s food shortages. The commentary is by Al Jazeera journalist Khadija Magardie. –CanKor.]

In a hospital in Pyongyang, doctors monitor a group of weak infants, some of whom are already showing signs of malnutrition and sickness. They are the most vulnerable members of a population suffering from extreme food shortages.

According to the United Nations, one third of all children under the age of five in North Korea are malnourished, and other countries have become less interested in donating food as the “hermit kingdom” battles efforts to constrain its nuclear program.

The UN World Food Programme says public distributions are running extremely low, and they are only able to help half the people who need aid. Meanwhile, the countries rulers stage outsized military parades, and some wonder whether food donations are being siphoned off to them.

North Korea recently granted a Reuters news crew access to the country, and Al Jazeera’a Khadija Magardie reports on the plight they found.

Das Leiden der Kinder von Haeju

[For German readers, here is an article published by the German radio and television broadcaster ARD entitled “The Suffering of the Children of Haeju”. It details the current problem of hunger in North Korea, specifically reporting on the work of the German NGO Cap Anamur, which has been active in the DPRK for more than a decade. –CanKor.]

Nur wenige Mütter kommen mit ihren Kindern überhaupt ins Krankenhaus. Es gibt zwar ausreichend Ärzte, aber auch hier warten sie vergeblich auf Reis. (Foto ARD)

Nordkorea ist von chronischem Lebensmittelmangel betroffen, in den 1990er-Jahren starben bereits Tausende Menschen bei einer Hungersnot. Laut der UNO brauchen dort derzeit rund sechs Millionen Menschen dringend Hilfe. von Nils Kinkel, ARD-Studio Ostasien.

Es regnet seit Wochen in Strömen – auch die zweieinhalb Stunden auf der Fahrt von Pjöngjang in Richtung Süden. Es geht vom Schaufenster Nordkoreas in das Armenhaus. In der Kornkammer wachsen auf den satten, grünen Feldern Reis, Mais und Kartoffeln. Die Ernte im Herbst droht davonzuschwimmen und dabei gibt es nach dem harten Winter schon jetzt nichts mehr zu Essen. Jeder Vierte im Land hungert, so die Schätzungen des Welternährungsprogramms.

Der Anblick der ausgemergelten Kinder im Krankenhaus von Haeju ist erschütternd: “Ich habe Bauchweh, hatte drei Tage Durchfall”, flüstert der fünfjährige Kim Jin Song leise – und hält sich dabei die Hand auf den Bauch. Der starke Regen der letzten Wochen hat das Trinkwasser verunreinigt und die Situation für die geschwächten Kinder in der Region verschlimmert. Read the rest of this entry »

Ecumenical group calls for end to food blockade of North Korea

[The World Council of Churches is an ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948. Today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. This post is taken from a WCC press release dated 27 June 2011. –CanKor.]

The silence of the international community to the plight of millions of North Koreans facing starvation and severe malnutrition was of deep concern to the members of an ecumenical forum for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula, which met last week, 16 to 19 June, in Nanjing, China.

The group, the steering committee of the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reconciliation, Reunification and Development in the Korean Peninsula (EFK), called on churches and the ecumenical community to advocate and lobby governments, the United Nations and the European Union to end the current strategy of using food as a political weapon to isolate the North Korean government and cause its downfall. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Meeting refugees from North Korea by Mary Robinson

[After a 48-hour visit to the DPRK and ROK in late April, four members of the Elders urged immediate delivery of humanitarian assistance to DPRK and an early resumption of dialogue on all outstanding issues. Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. Currently based in Dublin, Mary Robinson founded Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and, more recently, the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. She traveled to DPRK and ROK together with fellow Elders Gro Brundtland, Jimmy Carter and Martti Ahtisaari. –CanKor.]

Mary Robinson

In Seoul today I have just had a very moving meeting with a group of courageous young people – mainly young women – who are originally from North Korea. As they told me how they came to be living in South Korea, I also got a further glimpse into the true hardship of life in the DPRK.

Of course I have just been in North Korea – but it was impossible to have truly frank conversations with ordinary people while we were there – and we knew that what we saw would only touch the surface of the suffering that we had been briefed about.

The young people I met at the Yeomyung School in Seoul had almost all been separated for long periods from their parents, most of whom left North Korea out of desperation. A lack of food was mentioned by almost all as the reason for leaving. Read the rest of this entry »

American released after being held in North Korea

The Associated Press reported today that an American man held by North Korea for a half year, for allegedly proselytizing has been released and will return to the United States. His release was negotiated by US envoy Robert King. King had travelled to North Korea with a team of specialists earlier in the week to assess the severity of North Korea’s latest food shortages.

King says he did not agree to provide North Korea with assistance in exchange for Mr. Jun’s freedom.

The North Korea Food Aid Dilemma by Chris Nelson

[The following is reprinted here with permission from the Nelson Report – 4 April 2011]

Once again, the harsh winter, and North Korean government mal- and misfeasance has produced a serious risk of famine for what the World Food Program currently estimates as some 6-million men, women and children by the summer.

In their joint appearance before Senate Foreign Relations last month, A/S EAP Kurt Campbell, and State’s Special Envoy for North Korea, Steve Bosworth, both said “we will not let people starve”, when asked about the then-pending report.

But in fact, as we noted at the time, both Campbell and Bosworth carefully explained long-standing USG conditions on any resumption of US food aid, most revolving around inspection and verification of the long-standing US policy that its food go only to children, and “lactating women”, the bureaucratic way of talking about pregnant women and mothers of infants. Read the rest of this entry »

In Yodok’s Fields, the Poppies Blow…

Disclaimer: The following contains excerpts of soap box moralizing. Reader discretion is advised.

To most Canadians, the image of the poppy is most associated with November 11th and Remembrance Day. For readers who are unfamiliar with the concept of this holiday, November 11th was chosen as a day to remember Canadians who have died in service to their country. The symbolism of the poppy comes from John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields, where the poet describes a haunting, solitary cemetary full of crosses, caressed by a field of poppies that will not comfort the war dead.

Poppies, however, have different meanings for different people. Most notably, poppies are grown to produce opium, which in turn is a precursor for heroin. Poppy production has been quite an issue in such places as Afghanistan, where both the United Nations and coalition forces have spent much time and treasure in an attempt to wean Afghan farmers from growing this lucrative crop.

We have also known that for some time, the DPRK has also had its hand in the narcotics cookie jar. Whether it is heroin or methamphetamines (more colloquially known as “crystal meth”), the documented cases of this type of state-sponsored drug trafficking are far too high to discount these allegations as rubbish. Read the rest of this entry »

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