Monday, June 30, 2008

On Humanitarian Relief to North Korea

Humanitarian relief organizations operate according to the principle of proportionality: the greatest aid to the greatest need.

[With respect to humanitarian relief to North Korea,] Good Friends quoted a figure of 30% of international food aid going to the military, 10% allocated to workers in the munitions industry, and 10% to the staff of Kim Il-sung holiday houses. (On the surface, this adds up to 50%. However, it turns out that Good Friends had lumped all international assistance in this figure, including Chinese bilateral aid that had no strings attached and cannot therefore be considered diversion. )

Given the DPRK's "military-first" policy, this kind of sleight of hand would not be surprising. But how well did the military and party cadres fare during [previous] food crisis?

Even under the military-first policy, the North Korean military has suffered severe shortages of food. In fact, as the 2004 report from Good Friends points out, hunger among the rank and file in the army presented a major social problem: the plunder of civilian stocks.

Party cadres, too, suffered during the famine. One high-level DPRK official told former top North Korean government adviser Hwang Jong-yop (before he defected) that 10% of those who died of famine-related causes in 1996 were cadre members, a figure that roughly matches the rate of party membership in North Korean society. This anecdotal evidence of hunger and malnutrition among soldiers and cadre suggests a more egalitarian distribution of food than alleged in human rights reports.

[Excerpt of article by John Feffer, co-director of FPIF]

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