Thursday, July 31, 2008

U.N. confirms Millions At Risk in North Korea food crisis

The first survey on food and nutrition in North Korea since the country granted broad access to aid groups shows millions of people are going hungry, with households reducing their food intake and more children becoming malnourished.

The survey -- conducted jointly by the United Nations' World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization -- also shows a widening gap between how much food North Korea is able to produce or purchase and how much its population needs. The WFP called it the largest food gap since 2001 for the country of 23 million.

Said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the WFP's country director for North Korea, "The last time hunger was so deep and so widespread in parts of the country was in the late 1990s."

The three-week survey covered 53 counties in eight of North Korea's nine provinces, the WFP said.

Under a letter of understanding, North Korea agreed to open much more of the country to aid and to allow random surveys to see whether the intended beneficiaries are actually getting the food. North Korea previously allowed food aid to 50 counties in the country, with restrictions; under the new agreement, it will allow aid to 150 counties, covering most of the country.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

China rebuffs latest human rights report

China has rejected a new report which claims it has broken a promise to improve its human rights situation and "betrayed the core values of the Olympics."

The report by Amnesty International, entitled The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises, was released Tuesday and outlines particular areas of concern including the death penalty, detention without trial, the persecution of rights activists and the lack of media freedom.

According to Amnesty, China promised an improvement in human rights, media freedom and better provision in health and education. Instead, it says, Beijing has locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed individuals they believe may threaten the image of "stability" and "harmony" they want to present to the world during next month's games.

"By continuing to persecute and punish those who speak out for human rights, the Chinese authorities have lost sight of the promises they made when they were granted the Games seven years ago," Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said on the organization's Web site.


Monday, July 28, 2008

80% of Diet members oppose easing sanctions on NorthKorea

Kyodo News reports that, from a survey done, nearly 80 percent of Diet members have expressed opposition to Japan's plan to ease its sanctions on North Korea as long as Pyongyang fails to return more Japanese abduction victims.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

North Korea, the most avoidable human rights crisis

Hardship with no exposure to the outside world is how an ex-military officer described life in North Korea. Kim Seung-Min, now the director of Free North Korea Radio, also told of how escaping from North Korea did not necessarily mean escaping to freedom.

Kim was caught in China and repatriated to face death by hanging. He then escaped again, he said, only to return to China to be exploited as an underpaid laborer. "I was one of the lucky ones," he said through a translator.

"China hunts them down and puts them in jail," said Suzanne Scholte of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, a Fairfax, Virginia-based group of 60 organizations concerned with human rights in North Korea.

"This is the most avoidable human rights crisis we're facing right now," Scholte said.

It is estimated that between 100,000 and 400,000 people have fled North Korea in recent years, according to a recent study by law firm DLA Piper and the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a Washington-based NGO.

[International Herald Tribune]

Friday, July 25, 2008

North Korea “to Stay on Terror List Until Verification Is Agreed”

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun to agree to a verification protocol in a meeting of foreign ministers from countries in the six-party talks in Singapore.

On Thursday, it emerged that the U.S. has told North Korea that it will not strike it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism until it agrees on this verification protocol for its nuclear programs and stockpiles.

The U.S. was expected to strike the North off the list on Aug. 11 but will hold off however long it takes for Pyongyang to agree on the protocol, according to a reliable source in Washington.

[Chosun Ilbo]

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Prayer for North Korean Christians

“There is no other country in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner. Often three generations of Christians are hunted down and killed or placed in prisons. The recent dialogue and concessions by North Korea won’t affect the believers in this hermit country ... North Korea has not softened its targeting of thousands of Christians one bit.”

Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, recently made those comments on the United States government’s decision to remove North Korea from the State Sponsors of Terrorism.

This Sunday Open Doors USA and other members of the Global Justice Prayer Network are partnering to sponsor the Worldwide Day of Fasting and Prayer for North Korea.

[Assist News]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

North Korean defector leaves Russia for US

A North Korean defector has left Russia for the United States, the latest refugee to be accepted under a 2004 human rights law, South Korean activist Rev. Chun Ki-won said Wednesday.

Han Dong Man, a 42-year-old former lumberjack, was expected to arrive in Los Angeles, California, late Tuesday, the told The Associated Press.

Han went to Russia in 1993 under a state-sanctioned program, but he escaped the North's control in 1998 and spent almost a decade there before securing refugee status from the United Nations in 2007, Chun said.

North Korea sends lumberjacks to Russia as way of bringing much-needed hard currency into the closed country.

The latest refugee raised to 62 the total number of North Koreans accepted into the U.S. since 2004, Chun said.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

North Korea still a part of the Axis of Evil

In 2002, President George W. Bush branded Iraq, Iran and North Korea part of an "axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world".

In 2008, North Korea agreed to give up its atomic program in exchange for aid. And Monday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino praised North Korea for its steps.

However, when pressed by a reporter whether President Bush still believed that they were part of the "axis of evil," Perino said North Korea and Iran were still part of it.

"I think that until they give up their nuclear weapons programs completely and verifiably, I think that we would keep them in the same category," she said.

On that note, Condoleezza Rice told is heading off for her first informal meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun.


Monday, July 21, 2008

S. Korean Bill addresses Human Rights in North Korea

South Korea’s ruling Grand National Party will introduce a bill on improving human rights in North Korea.

To be initiated by lawmaker Hwang Jin-ha, the party’s vice policy director for national security, unification and diplomacy policies, the plan addresses the subject of North Korean defectors, prisoners of war, those kidnapped by North Korea and separated families.

The Unification Ministry will also establish a basic plan on improving human rights in North Korea including humanitarian aid and improvement of human rights. The bill also emphasizes transparency on humanitarian aid to North Korea.

The plan also specifies what South Korea should do for North Korean defectors. Article 11 says the government should ensure that escapees are not forcibly returned to North Korea and are admitted as refugees.

[Dong-A Ilbo]

Sunday, July 20, 2008

North Korean Asylum Seekers

South Korea is willing to help authorities in London identify more than 400 people seeking asylum in Britain saying they are North Korean defectors, the foreign ministry here said.

London wants to determine if their claims to be North Korean defectors is genuine. Yonhap news agency said the South Korean government would run the fingerprints against those in its database and if they match, his or her chances to be granted a second asylum in Britain will seriously diminish.

A leading activist and Christian pastor, Chun Ki-Won, who has helped many North Korean defectors to arrive in South Korea said "almost all" of the applicants in Britain were North Koreans who had failed to adapt to life in the South and are seeking a second asylum there.


S. Korea to aid Britain with asylum cases

South Korea is to work with Britain regarding nearly 450 people identifying themselves as North Korean defectors, a South Korean official says.

"In Britain, there are about 850 people presumed to be North Korea defectors, among whom 450 or more have applied for refugee status," said a Foreign Ministry official, who wished to remain anonymous. "The British government sought our cooperation to confirm if the applicants are genuinely North Korean defectors."

Other unidentified officials told Yonhap while the National Police Agency opposed such diplomatic cooperation, the Foreign Ministry decided to offer its assistance after discussing the proposal with other related offices.

"What we will hand over is not the whole personal information of certain civilian but information on whether fingerprints sent from the British government are identical to those in our stockpile or not," one of the officials said.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rice to Meet North Korean Diplomat

Condi to Meet North Korean Diplomat

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet next week with her North Korean counterpart and the foreign ministers of four other countries involved in the effort to end Pyongyang's nuclear programs, the State Department said yesterday.

The session, which will take place on the sidelines of a Southeast Asia security conference in Singapore, will mark Rice's first meeting with the North Korean official, Pak Ui Chun, and follows on an extraordinary thawing in the tensions between the two countries.

The meeting is billed as an "informal" gathering of the foreign ministers from the countries participating in the six-party talks, which also include China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.

[Washington Post]

Friday, July 18, 2008

World Food Programme chief seeks more aid for North Korea

An executive of the UN’s food agency, the World Food Programme (WFP), is in South Korea to seek its help in feeding hungry North Korea. Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the World Food Programme (WFP) country director for North Korea, will ask Seoul to contribute to a greatly expanded food program by the UN agency.

The WFP announced last month it had received Pyongyang’s permission to expand its aid to more than 5 million people — out of a total population of 23 million — from the 1.2 million currently being helped.

The US is providing 500,000 tonnes of food aid, 80 percent of it through the WFP.

The hardline communist North cut off official ties with South Korea’s new conservative government and rebuffed an offer of 50,000 tonnes of corn in bilateral aid. Relations worsened further last week when a North Korean soldier shot dead a housewife who strayed into a military zone when on holiday at the Mount Kumgang resort.

[Taipei Times]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Olympics and North Korean Refugees

The North Korean refugee issue has taken on a renewed urgency as the Olympics loom and negotiations continue over disarming North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, successfully sponsored a resolution last fall calling on China to respect the human rights of North Korean refugees, halt their repatriation and allow them to request asylum. "Beijing must understand that it can no longer systematically disregard its international obligations by forcibly repatriating these individuals to North Korea, where they face severe punishment, and even death," Royce said.

Human rights groups and dozens of legislators including Royce also argue that North Korea's treatment of its citizens should be factored into the decision to lift U.S. sanctions against the country.

"The human rights situation in North Korea is a nightmare," said Royce. "North Koreans are suffering and dying. But these abuses also tell us something about the regime we're expecting to carry out commitments to disarm its nuclear weapons program."

Bruce Klingner, a Northeast Asia expert for the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C., said that negotiations with North Korea shouldn't focus exclusively on its nuclear programs.

"Human rights in North Korea and its nuclear program can and should be discussed together," Klingner said. "We can't back away." He said the United Nations should also be pressing for the right to inspect North Korean prison camps, some of which have been shown by satellite imagery to be as large as the District of Columbia.

[Excerpt of an article by Erika Chavez, Orange County Register]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

North Korea allows UNICEF access to isolated provinces

For the first time in two years, UN humanitarian agencies have been granted access to two isolated provinces in North Korea. These areas have been off-limits to international aid agencies since the end of 2006.

UNICEF spokeswoman, Veronique Taveau, [explains] "We know that the situation in those two provinces for children is quite bad, so that is why it is very important for us to go there to be able to reach the most vulnerable children and to assess the situation."

During the next 11 days, Taveau says the 10-member team will visit hospitals, health facilities and institutions for children in county towns and villages. She says the experts will finalize arrangements to train doctors and caregivers in the treatment of malnutrition and monitor the use of supplies.

Taveau says surveys conducted a few years ago indicate high levels of malnutrition among children. "What we know is that 37 percent of children below the age of five are already malnourished and that is a very, very high number," she added. "What we also know is that mortality rates for children, for babies in North Korea is 55 for 1,000 births. So, it is really a very high rate. So, that is why we are very worried and concerned about the situation."

[Excerpt of article by Lisa Schlein, VOA]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Korean Church Coalition pressing China on North Korean refugees

As the world tunes in to witness the pomp and pageantry of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Sam Kim is working to ensure the international spotlight will also cast a glare on China's spotty human rights record.

Kim, executive director of the Irvine-based Korean Church Coalition, is leading a campaign to get China to release up to 300,000 refugees from North Korea who cross the country's northeast border in search of food, work or freedom from political persecution.

The coalition, made up of 3,000 churches nationwide, has printed and distributed thousands of banners and bumper stickers that read "Let My People Go!" held dozens of prayer vigils across the country, and lobbied legislators to bring attention to the plight of the refugees.

Refugees who remain in China must turn to an underground railroad to attempt entry into South Korea, and many female refugees have been forcibly trafficked into the country and end up as sex workers or slaves, according to human rights groups including Amnesty International.

[Excerpt of an article by Erika Chavez, Orange County Register]

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kim Jong Il a no show at Olympics Opening

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will not show up at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics slated for Aug. 8. Instead, he will send the North’s second in command, Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, according to China`s official Xinhua news agency.

Kim Jong Il’s absence at the opening ceremony means there will be no encounter of the North Korean leader with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak or U.S. President George W. Bush, a possibility that has drawn global media attention.

[Dong-a Ilbo]

Sunday, July 13, 2008

UNICEF resumes aid deliveries to north-east DPR Korea

Trucks bearing food and medicine from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have begun a difficult four-day journey over mountain roads to deliver supplies to youngsters in the isolated provinces in the north-east of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Some 11 tons of therapeutic milk, 1.5 tons of therapeutic food for severely malnourished children and enough medicine for 400,000 people for three months are among the items being sent to the area.

This delivery is UNICEF’s first since Pyongyang cut off international agencies’ access to the provinces in late 2006. UNICEF Representative Gopalan Balagopal said, “It is now urgent we reach children as quickly as possible with life-saving support.”

According to an assessment on food security by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), there are many malnourished children in Hamgyong and Ryanggang, two north-eastern provinces struck by last year’s severe floods.

[UN News Centre]

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Religion suppressed in North Korea

Simply owning a Bible could get you executed in North Korea.

Interviewee 27 was one of almost 40 refugees and security agents interviewed for "A Prison Without Bars: Refugee and Defector Testimonies of Severe Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea," a new report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The commission is an independent, bipartisan agency mandated by Congress to track religious freedom around the world and to advise the president and secretary of state about countries that violate religious freedom.

According to the new report, little has improved in the country in the last three years.

The capital has a Catholic church and two Protestant churches. Reportedly, those churches exist to give visitors an impression the country has religious freedom.

Religious activity, considered a security threat, is punishable with anything from imprisonment and torture to public execution. Despite this, clandestine religion is fairly common in the country.

However, Scott Flipse, the commission's director of the East Asia and Pacific regions, recounted a particularly disturbing instance of an underground church that was discovered and its members subsequently placed under a road grader.

Repatriated refugees --- those who fled to China for asylum or economic opportunity but subsequently returned or were sent back to North Korea --- are often tortured for contact with South Koreans or religious groups. Longtime citizens are punished if there's any indication they're Christian. The country uses concentration camps and human trafficking as punitive methods.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Further call from Kim Jong Il for changes in North Korean agriculture

Kim Jong Il on Thursday reiterated that solving the food crisis is the country's priority and called for history-making changes in agriculture.

While inspecting farms in North Phyongan province, Kim called on the people to support agriculture and make the countryside civilized, self-sufficient and equipped with modern technology, the official Rodong Sinmun daily reported.

A management system based on modern technology should be set up,in order to increase production, he said.

It was the second time in two months that Kim stressed efforts should be made to feed the people.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Russian food aid arrives by train in North Korea

A shipment of Russian food aid arrived this week in North Korea, the country's official news agency reported.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said the aid arrived Monday via train to the northwestern city of Sinuiju. There were no details on the amount of food sent, which KCNA said was to be delivered through the World Food Program.

The food "is a token of the friendly relations between the peoples of the two countries and an encouragement to the Korean people," KCNA aid.

Russia is one of the North's allies and a member of six-nation disarmament talks that aim to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programs.

Famine in the 1990s is believed to have killed as many as 2 million North Koreans, caused by bad weather and outdated farming practices along with the loss of Pyongyang's Soviet benefactor.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Tour de NK Human Rights" coinciding with Tour de France

Norbert Vollertsen and team are underway with a European awareness campaign highlighting China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees. The "Tour de North Korean Human Rights" is by bicycle and coinciding with the Tour de France, roughly one month prior to the Olympics beginning in Beijing.

A group from South Korea, including over 60 Koreans, is travelling by bicycle from Brussels to The Hague, via Germany to Geneva, Paris and London.

A Korean TV-team and newspaper journalists are follow this "Tour”.

Target locations during the tour include Chinese Embassies in The Hague, Brussels, Paris and London. Street protests in front of the European Parliament, the UN in Geneva, International Criminal Court in The Hague, EU- Human Right Com. in Strasbourg etc.

Schedule for Remaining Days of "Tour de North Korea Human Rights"


July 8 - Arrival in Strasbourg


Chinese Consulate- Campaign


EU Commission for Human Rights - Campaign


EU Parliament - Campaign


Event (Movie "Crossing" Screeing)


July 9 - Arrival in Geneva


Event (Movie "Crossing" Screening)


July 10 - UN - Human Rights Commission Campaign


UNHCR - Campaign


Chinese UN mission - Campaign


WCC (World Council of Churches)


Event (Movie "Crossing" Screening)


July 11 - Arrival in Paris


Chinese Embassy - Campaign


French Parliament - Campaign


Eiffel Tower - Campaign


Event (Movie "Crossing" Screening)


July 12 - Meetings with French press, NGOs etc.


July 13 - Meeting with British press. NGOs etc


Piccadilly Circus - Campaign


Hyde Park: Speaker's Corner - Campaign


Meeting with congressmen, Press and NGOs etc.

Event (Movie "Crossing" Screening)


July 14 - Chinese Embassy - Campaign


UK Parliament - Campaign


2012 London Olympic Venue - Campaign


Meeting with congressmen, Press and NGOs etc.


Return to Korea

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

North Korea nuclear talks to resume

Six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program will resume this week in Beijing, South Korea's chief nuclear envoy said Tuesday, according to the Yonhap news agency.

"Important issues will be discussed," said envoy Kim Sook, "including the appraisal of the declaration and the establishment of a verification mechanism."

China will host the talks after a nine-month hiatus. In addition to the Koreas and China, the talks also include Japan, Russia and the United States.

Kim told reporters about the upcoming sessions as he was heading to Beijing for preliminary meetings with his counterparts from other participating nations, Yonhap reported.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Nuclear Reasoning with North Korea

An excerpt of a Commentary byMikhail Gorbachev, as published in the International Herald Tribune

There has been unusual interest throughout the world in the U.S. presidential race. … Over past eight years the rapid rise in military spending has been the main factor in increasing the federal budget deficit. Yet no candidate has made that clear.

The present administration, particularly during ... Bush's first presidential term, was bent on trying to solve many foreign policy issues primarily by military means, through threats and pressure. .. The fact is that the military option has again and again led to a dead end.

One doesn't have to go very far to find an alternative. Take North Korea. After several years of saber-rattling, the United States finally got around to serious talks with the North Koreans, involving South Korea and other neighboring countries. And though it took time..., the dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program has now begun.

The candidates, and the next president, will have to decide and state clearly whether America wants to be an empire or a democracy, whether it seeks global dominance or international cooperation. They will have to choose, because this is an either-or proposition: The two things don't mix, like oil and water.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

China Steps Up Arrests of North Korean Refugees, Defectors Say

Chinese authorities are intensifying the search for North Korean defectors hiding in the country, offering as much as triple the usual reward for information that leads to their capture, defectors said.

“In some regions, they're offering as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,457),” said Han Chang Kweon, chairman of the Association of North Korean Defectors Organization. ``It used to be around 3,000 yuan.''

Han, who escaped North Korea in 1992, said he is in touch with some of the estimated 300,000 North Korean defectors in China. North Koreans usually cross the 1,700-kilometer border with China and hide out before attempting to get to South Korea.

China is trying to reduce the number of refugees in the country ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, defectors say. Repeated calls to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to enquire about the country's policy on North Korean defectors were not answered.

“China wants to hide their human rights problems before they hold their international event,'' said Tim Peters, head of Helping Hands Korea, a human rights group for North Korean refugees, based in Seoul. ``China cannot be given a free pass in its human-rights abuses.''


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hungry North Korea opens doors to aid workers

Five aid agencies announced this week that they had signed an unprecedented deal with Pyongyang to oversee the distribution of food aid from the U.S. government - the first U.S. bilateral assistance in eight years.

North Korea's surprise decision to ease restrictions on international aid operations as it battles chronic hunger is a major breakthrough which bodes well for future international cooperation, aid workers say. But aid groups have warned the secretive regime that they will halt a new aid program if it reneges on promises to let them check the distribution of food.

"It has been made very clear to North Korea that if it's discovered that food is going where it's not supposed to be going this program ... will not continue," said Joy Portella, spokeswoman for Mercy Corps, one of the agencies.

For the first time, the agencies will be able to keep tabs on the progress of the food from its arrival in the country to its distribution in institutions including hospitals, nurseries and orphanages.

Victor Hsu, country director for World Vision, said North Korea was allowing aid workers into 165 of its 211 counties. The others are off limits for what Pyongyang says are national security reasons. No food aid will be delivered there.

[Excerpt of an article by Emma Batha, Reuters AlertNet]

Friday, July 04, 2008

North Korean Defectors not buying North Korea’s nuke pledge

Han Chang-kweon is skeptical when he hears that his homeland is taking steps to get rid of its nuclear weapons.

Born in North Korea in 1961, he escaped from a communist logging camp in his early 30s, lived in Uzbekistan, and sought asylum in the United States before moving to Seoul in 2005. He said North Korea’s nuclear weapons are its only bargaining chip, and the country can’t survive without them.

"What they are doing now is nothing but a show. They will never give up their nuclear programs — they simply can’t, at least for as long as Kim Jong Il lives," said Han, now chairman of the Association of North Korean Defector Organizations, which represents 28 defector groups in South Korea.

Both said that despite widespread famine and poverty, North Koreans can’t overthrow their government because the country has no free press and no way for dissenters to organize.

Han said South Korea’s Sunshine Policy, which emphasized cooperation with the North, was a "total failure" because it gave the communist nation time to develop its nuclear programs while millions starved. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak reversed the 10-year policy when he took office earlier this year.

Han said North Korean defectors will be crucial in reunifying the countries. "In a long term, I think it is us who hold the keys to resolve the situation," he said. "North Korean defectors have experienced democracy and communism and can walk forward to help both South and North better adjust to the changes."

[Excerpt of an article by Ashley Rowland and Hwang Hae-rym , Stars and Stripes]

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Right reaction to Yongbyon blast

What to make of President Bush's announcement that he would remove North Korea from the terrorism list and lift other economic sanctions, this following an earlier decision to provide North Korea with massive quantities of oil to meet the their energy needs?

Most of the media described this capitulation as "a triumph" because Kim blew up the already "out of commission" cooling tower at Yongbyon. Not so highlighted is the fact that North Korea did not develop its nuclear weapons at the plutonium plant, but in a parallel, underground program which made bomb fuel from enriched uranium. No one denies this.

The demolition of the tower was meaningless public relations photo-op to confuse the American people and help Bush save face.

The harshest critics of the new deal have been Bush's far-right supporters, like Claudia Rosett . Here's what she says: "The lesson to date is that America, faced with nuclear blackmail, will bow down, dignify and fortify tyrants, fork over loot, and celebrate the process as a victory for diplomacy."

Last week, former United Nations ambassador John Bolton blasted the agreement saying: “I think it’s actually a clear victory for North Korea.” They've gained enormous political legitimacy by being taken off our list of state sponsors of terrorism and out from under the prohibitions of the Trading With the Enemy Act. ... It’s a very sad day for supporters of the president. It's the final collapse of Bush's foreign policy."

The Wall Street Journal summed it up like this in an editorial on Friday: "Most troubling is the message all of this sends to Iran, or other rogue states. The lesson is that when you build a weapon, your political leverage increases. Play enough brinkmanship, and you can even receive diplomatic absolution without admitting to having the kind of nuclear device you exploded less than two years earlier. We understand that diplomacy often includes winks and nods, but it shouldn't require denial."

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]