FAO/WFP Crop Assessment Report Published

(Photo by Erich Weingartner, December 2010)

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) visited DPRK at the request of the Government from 3 to 17 October to assess the 2011 main-crop harvest, forecast the 2012 production of winter and spring crops, estimate cereal import requirements for the 2011/12 marketing year (November 2011 to October 2012), to assess the household food security situation and estimate food assistance needs.

This is an annual assessment that calculates staple cereal availability and needs, on which is based the WFP food aid appeal for the following year. As in previous years, the DPRK is suffering from a net food deficit. The report notes the following:

The total cereal import requirement in 2011/12 is estimated at 739 000 tonnes. As indicated by various CFSAM reports in the past, since mid-1990s the cereal equivalent import requirement (i.e. the national food deficit), has hovered around 1 million tonnes, reaching over 2 million tonnes in 2000/01, the year of the worst harvest. Last year’s CFSAM estimated the cereal import requirements at 867 000 tonnes which was later revised upwards to 1.09 million tonnes due to losses of the early crops. The food gap has narrowed this year, but it still remains at a significantly high level. Read the rest of this entry »

Should we feed North Korea? The case FOR by Dorothy Stuehmke

[This Los Angeles Times Op-Ed was published on 21 April 2011. Stuehmke, the senior adviser to the U.S.-North Korea 2008-09 food aid program for the U.S. Agency for International Development, served in the Office of Korean Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 2006 to 2008. She presents the case in favour of US food aid to the DPRK. –CanKor.]

North Korea has recently made a desperate international appeal for food aid. Reports from aid workers and international nongovernmental organizations warn of a major food shortage. As the United States deliberates whether to restart a food aid program in North Korea, it must consider the following questions: Is there a true humanitarian need, can we address the potential risk of food diversion and can a properly monitored program allow us to engage with the vulnerable citizens of one of the most isolated countries in the world? Read the rest of this entry »

The WFP’s Findings Parsed, by Marcus Noland

[Marc Noland of Peterson IIE has done extensive work on the entire food assistance situation, including the facts on the ground, and the policy dilemma of whether food aid has the unfortunate byproduct of unintentionally helping to underwrite the DPRK’s nuclear program. He weighed in on the Food Aid Debate on 5 April 2011.]

The World Food Program, Food and Agricultural Organization and UNICEF have released their potentially fateful report on the North Korean food situation (formally, “WFP/FAO/UNICEF Rapid Food Security Assessment Mission to the DPRK, March 24 2011″). Although these assessments are a staple of public discussions on North Korean food security issues, for multiple reasons the balance sheet exercise that is reported is almost surely inaccurate, possibly by a large margin—if taken seriously, the past WFP/FAO reports would imply that North Korea was in almost continuous famine for the past decade, something no one asserts.

Nevertheless, these reports are so central to the public discussion that they are worth parsing. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Feed vulnerable North Koreans say Brookings’ Cohen and Abramowitz

Brookings’ Roberta Cohen and Morton Abramowitz wrote a piece urging the US to increase food aid to North Korea. Although critics contend that increased aid would empower the North Korean regime, Cohen and Abramowitz write that history has shown otherwise. An excerpt below:

The American government has worked hard to be in lockstep with South Korea, but it should not extend that to changing its deeply held values. United States policy should be guided by its own traditions embodied in the doctrine enunciated by Ronald Reagan that hunger knows no politics. This policy served to justify food aid to starving Ethiopians under the thumb of a brutal communist and stridently anti-American regime. At the time, the same arguments against aid for North Korea were put forward, but the humanitarian imperative prevailed and it contributed to the eventual overthrow of Mengistu’s government.

Read the full article on the Brookings site.

Trapped in a devil’s bargain

Ambassador Christopher Hill, Korea Talks 2007

Christopher Hill - photo by US Mission Geneva

Christopher! My white knight in shining armor! What have you done, my champion of reason? For years I have admired you from afar, engaged in battles against irrationality and iniquity! Tell me you haven’t abandoned your quest! Tell me you haven’t succumbed to the notion that reason and compassion have no place in geopolitics!

I’m old enough to know better, but there’s a hidden region of my brain (right next to the amygdala) where I still maintain a private pantheon of heroes and role models. That’s where my image of Christopher resided. Until recently, that is. It’s very painful when one of my idols falls off their pedestal.

If only it were as easy to distinguish good from evil in real life as it is in vintage Wild West movies, where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black. Alas, reality wears camouflage. Black can turn out to be good; white can turn out to be evil. Like brilliant white snow in a spring thaw, Christopher’s image has turned a slushy shade of gray. Read the rest of this entry »

South Korea’s Humanitarian Dilemma by Victor Hsu

[The following article was written by CanKor Brain Trust member Professor Victor W. Hsu, Korean Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management & Former National Director for North Korea of World Vision International. A shortened version was published as an Opinion piece in the Korea Times. – Miranda]

Home visit in Popdong - photo E. Weingartner

On March 22, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Unification, Lee Jong-joo announced that “there are no plans for direct government-to-government humanitarian aid” to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). But the government is “considering when and how to resume humanitarian aid provided by South Korean NGOs.” This is certainly a step in the right direction given that in recent months the Republic of Korea (ROK) government officials have had to encounter enquiries not only by their own civil society but also by other governments and various United Nations officials. Officials from the World Food Programme (WFP) arrive this week to explore the possibility for the ROK to participate in a new round of food aid. Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #8

In which Pak Kim Li addresses causes and consequences of the current food shortages, including a peculiar take on its relationship to the nuclear issue. (First published in CanKor Report 309-310, 27 June 2008.) 


Erich Heinz Weingartner: The US government has agreed to send 500,000 metric tons of food grains to your country.

Pak Kim Li: Yes, that is correct.

EHW: Why?

PKL: Why are they sending us food?

EHW: Why are they sending it? Why do you need it? Why did you ask for it?

PKL: They persuaded us to ask for it.

EHW: The USA persuaded the DPRK to ask for food? Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #3

In which Erich Weingartner and Pak Kim Li discuss the 2008 New Year’s Joint Editorial, the DPRK’s annual statement of projected government policies. (First published in CanKor Report #301, 31 January 2008.)

Pak Kim Li (PKL):   I was merely joking, of course.

Erich Heinz Weingartner (EHW):  Joking? You?

PKL:  Yes, I admit it isn’t Korean style of humour, but it is humour that you taught me.

EHW:  I taught you to make jokes when I’m trying to conduct a serious interview?

PKL:  Yes, you know… April fool!

EHW:  This is January. Read the rest of this entry »

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