What Works Best? by Erich Weingartner

There is a simple question I am often asked when speaking about humanitarian assistance: What works best with the DPRK?

Simple questions don’t always result in simple answers, and when it comes to the DPRK, simple answers don’t exist. Actually, even simple questions turn out to be more complex when applied to the DPRK: What do we mean by the words “works best”? Works best for whom? For what purpose? Under what circumstances? During what time period? And who or what determines what works best?

North Korean children consuming donated food (Picture by Erich Weingartner)

North Korean children consuming donated food (Picture by Erich Weingartner)

Works best for whom?

For the donors? For the implementing agencies? For the recipient country? For the intended beneficiaries?

What works best for international agencies may not work best for Korean organizations. What works best for resident NGOs may not work for non-resident NGOs. What works best for European NGOs under the umbrella of the EU or EC or ECHO may not work for American NGOs distributing the donations of US-AID. What works best for the Eugene Bell Foundation may not work at all for Doctors Without Borders (MSF). What works best for the elite in Pyongyang may not work well for the families of unemployed workers in Chongjin.

Works best for what purpose?

What may work best in the short term may not work best with a longer-term perspective in mind. When evaluating assistance programme models and strategies, we should consider what long-term objectives we are seeking to achieve:

  • When we intervene in the DPRK, is our only goal to feed the hungry?
  • Or are we also concerned about peace and security in the region? Read the rest of this entry »
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DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.12

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the  current January 2013 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.12

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (left) and Google chairman Eric Schmidt (Photo by AP)

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (left) and Google chairman Eric Schmidt (Photo by AP)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Google Head Visits Pyongyang
  • Virtual Suggestions: Google and North Korea
  • DPRK Never Has Been Hermetically Sealed
  • Another US Entrepreneur Honorary Pyongyang Citizen
  • NK Relaxes Cell Phone Rules for Foreigners
  • NK Eyes More Foreign Media Outlets: AP Vice-president
  • Grain, Fertilizer Imports from China Fall Sharply
  • Western Instructors Train N. Koreans in Statistics
  • NK Seeks German Help to Open Economy
  • Pyongyang Wants Private Sector Cooperation with ROK
  • ROK Civic Groups Call for Kumgang Tours Resumption
  • DPRK Tablet PC Can Receive TV Broadcasts
  • Kaesong Production Up 17.5%
  • Row Brews Over Kaesong Holiday Move

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

“LinkedIn blocked me when I listed my North Korean address — and I was not the only one,” Felix Abt, a Swiss entrepreneur who spent seven years living and doing business in North Korea, said. Read the rest of this entry »

Is ROK ready to resume aid to DPRK?

[North Korea has been hit with another summer of poor weather for agriculture. First there was a drought which extended also to South Korea and areas of China. Then there came floods. Prospects for the harvest this year are extremely poor. Yet apart from China, the major donors of food aid to the DPRK (ROK, Japan, USA) continue to withhold aid, for various reasons that have been covered by CanKor previously. The following article (dated Paju, 24 August 2012) from the South Korean Yonhap news agency reports about a South Korean NGO effort to provide flood relief aid. The group was well received by the North, which agreed to receive the promised aid. The article also reports about indications that the ROK Government may be ready to continue aid to the North. –CanKor]

South’s aid group crosses border to discuss flood aid with North

A non-governmental South Korean aid group crossed the border early Friday to hold a discussion in North Korea over relief aid to the flood-stricken North.

ROK Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik (Photo by Yonhap)

Four officials of the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea left the Doransan transit office in Paju, north of Seoul, around 10:00 a.m. to travel to Kaesong, a North Korean border city.

The council representing 51 South Korean private aid groups for the North said the officials will meet their counterparts from the National Reconciliation Council, North Korea’s organization for promoting friendship with the South, and discuss the South group’s plan to provide relief aid to North Koreans. The South Koreans will return home in the afternoon, according to the group.

Friday’s trip by the private aid group marks the first North Korean visit by a South Korean entity over the flood relief issue since the North was struck by devastating floods this summer.

The United Nations and other countries channeled funds and other relief goods to the North as part of their humanitarian assistance, but South Korea has remained mum so far due mainly to a chill in the South-North relations.

The latest trip helped fuel speculation over whether the Seoul government will decide to take action about the North’s flood damage despite the restrained inter-Korean relations. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.5

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the current June 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.5

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

In Chiba in 1991 Hyun Jung-hwa of the ROK (right) and Li Bun Hui of the DPRK formed a

In Chiba in 1991 Hyun Jung-hwa of the ROK (right) and Li Bun Hui of the DPRK formed a joint Korean team. The pair won the female finals by defeating China.

  • China Offers Work Visas for 40,000 N.Koreans
  • UN Report Highlights Plight of NK Children
  • Politics Hampering UN Aid Efforts
  • Female Participation in North Korea’s Business Sector
  • Table Tennis Player Sees Opportunity for Unity
  • NK Could Be Major Carbon Credit Player
  • Visa-free Access to Yalu River Zone

    …plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

China’s issuance of 40,000 work visas, and perhaps more in the pipeline, to North Koreans is a step in the right direction. It is well attested that the vast majority of North Koreans who have fled their homeland since the famine of the 1990s (the “Arduous March”) have been economic migrants seeking a better life, not political refugees, of whom only a handful were recorded in the previous four decades. The deal apparently came about as a result of a request by the DPRK’s new leader Kim Jong Un. Now, those who wish to do so will be able to legally work in China — as many already do in Russia — and send money (the Renminbi yuan is regarded as a hard currency in NK) and food home, avoiding falling into the hands of human traffickers and being smuggled into South Korea, where their lot is not a happy one. This will reduce the profits of this evil trade, and help the Chinese police crack down on the gangsters and rescue their victims.

It will also take the wind out of the sails of those who claim that North Koreans flee and fall prey to the traffickers because Pyongyang doesn’t allow them to leave.

Please feel free to consult the full issue by clicking on this link: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.5

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.4

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the  current May 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.4

Kim Yong Nam, head of the DPRK's Southeast Asia delegation [Photo:KCNA]

Kim Yong Nam, head of the DPRK’s Southeast Asia delegation [Photo:KCNA]

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Can Singapore Be Economic Model for NK?
  • China’s Jilin Province Speeding Up Border Projects
  • Various NK Bodies Competing for Investments
  • Change is Around the Corner for the DPRK
  • Will NK’s Plans for Foreign Investment Make it a Prosperous Nation?
  • Pyongyang Holds 13th Spring Trade Fair
  • Tanchon Port Completed
  • Rason to Host Second Int’l Trade Exhibition

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

May has been a good month for debunking misconceptions about the DPRK. First of all, the story that during the “sunshine” years of ROK presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun the South delivered “handouts” of free food to the North and got nothing in return has turned out to be untrue. The fact is that the North received a low interest loan from South Korea’s state-owned Export-Import Bank to buy the food. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.3

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check out the full text of the April 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly April 2012

Huichon power station in Jagang Province, DPRK, has started operations on 6 April 2012 to help ease electricity shortages in the capital, protect cultivated land and residential areas along the Chongchon River from flooding, and ensure an ample supply of water to the industrial establishments in Huichon and Namhung areas, according to official media reports. (Photo by KCNA)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Rajin-Khassan Freight Train Service to Open in October
  • More NK Citizens Visit China
  • A Question of Leadership
  • Huichon Power Station Operational
  • Future High-tech Farming for NK?
  • Department Store for Scientists and Technicians
  • NK, China Seeking Investors for Rajin Port

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

There have been several significant signs this month that North Korea’s new leadership is sincere about enhancing transparency. For one thing, NK invited news media from around the world to observe its satellite launch, knowing full well that if it failed (It did), the whole world would know, and there could be no cover-up. Not only that, the official DPRK media reported the disaster with no holds barred. That’s got to be a first. Another first was the reporting of two speeches made by the new leader, Kim Jong Un, on the front page of the North’s leading Workers Daily. His father, the late Kim Jong Il, does not seem to have made any public speeches at all during his 17-year tenure, and any private ones were not reported. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.2

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the the March 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.2

The Unhasu Orchestra tunes up in Paris. [Photo: Reuters]

The Unhasu Orchestra tunes up in Paris. (Photo by Reuters)

Titles of articles found in this issue include

  • N-S Opening Could Be Economic Lifeline for ROK
  • Unification Starting in Kaesong
  • DPRK Encourages Foreign Investment
  • Internet Access at PUST for NK Students
  • The Constitution of the DPRK
  • North and South Train Cambodian Olympic Hopefuls
  • Pyongyang Orchestra Plays in Paris
  • Korean Care Friendship Network

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators. Read the rest of this entry »

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