Tuesday, July 01, 2008

North Korea: Food aid vs Human-rights criticism

For several decades, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea prided itself on meeting the food needs of its population, although it has little arable land.

In the 1980s, human-rights organizations began to document the extent of North Korea's violations in the civil and political spheres, including political labor camps, the lack of freedom of speech and assembly, and the collective punishment of families for the crimes of an individual.

In the 1990s, these accounts became more detailed and cross-checkable via interviews with an increasing number of North Koreans in China and South Korea.

At this time, allegations surfaced regarding the diversion of food aid, the distribution of food according to political classification. In its first term, the administration of President George W Bush responded to concerns about inadequate monitoring by reducing US contributions to the World Food Program.

What had previously been two relatively separate approaches to North Korea - food aid versus human-rights criticism - have thus converged.

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

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