Monday, September 05, 2005

North Korea Abuses International Food Aid

North Korea is abusing international food aid while cutting back on its own imports of food and diverting funds elsewhere, including the military, a U.S. human rights group said.
North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-il
The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea accused Pyongyang of hindering aid efforts by both foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations to reach those who needed help most in the communist state. "Pyongyang's refusal to allow full monitoring of food delivery and need, and the restrictions on the movement of aid workers, continue to impede the aid effort and limit its ability to reach vulnerable groups," it said in a report. North Korea has suffered persistent food shortages since a famine caused by drought and flooding in the mid and late 1990s led to the deaths of more than a million people.
A starving North Korean refugee in China.
This woman was captured by the Chinese police the day after this picture was taken, and later repatriated to North Korea. She is known to have died soon afterward in a North Korean prison.

"This crisis is no longer about food shortages, it's about a government that denies its citizens basic rights," said Stephan Haggard of the University of California, San Diego, who co-wrote the report. It said as international aid increased, North Korea cut back on its own commercial imports of food. The government was paying for only about 10 percent of food coming into the country, allowing it to shift resources to other priorities, including the military, it said. "North Korea is taking advantage of the generosity of the donor countries. At the same time, they have been accepting food aid to alleviate their man-made crisis, they have been cutting their commercial food imports drastically," said Debra Liang-Fenton, executive director of the committee. "So instead of the destitute population being fed and supplies of food being supplemented thanks to international aid, the communist regime has saved the dollars raised in order to shore up its power."
Its Good To Be The King
There was no guarantee aid was reaching the truly needy and only those loyal to the authorities were cared for, the report said. "If anyone bears even a sign of suspicion that he has lost blind faith, the suspect is immediately deprived of basic foodstuffs and medical aid; he loses his job and even the chance to receive an education," said the report. Evidence from refugees and others pointed to a need for better monitoring of food aid, much of which comes from the World Food Program. This monitoring was made more difficult by less conditional shipments of aid made to North Korea by China and South Korea. The group urged these countries to channel food via the WFP.