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 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 »

Reaction to the NK food crisis by Mitchell Reiss

[This continues the discussion on food aid published in the Nelson Report on 5 April 2011. Mitchell Reiss, President of Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, was a former US State Department policy planner.]

Starting in the first term of the Bush 43 Administration, USAID director Andrew Natsios articulated the three prongs of a humanitarian relief strategy: (i) real need, (ii) more severe need than other places, and (iii) our ability to monitor the food distribution to ensure that it reaches its target audience. This was a more complete articulation of the first Reagan Doctrine that stated that “a starving child knows no politics.” Read the rest of this entry »

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