Aids to North Korea Never Reach the People

[imText1]Last December, Kim Man Chul (pseudoname) of North Korean’s anti-regime group crossed the Tunman River with the two video tapes of 60 minutes long in his chest.

The tapes contain vivid scenes of food aids from the international society being sold to the people illegally. The structuralized illegal sale of the international good aids under the dictator regime was ignored by the international aids organization and aid providing countries for the past decade under the “humanitarian silence.”

Most of the North Korean people knew about this from long ago. Furthermore, it is known as a “common sense” among the defector assisting organization and NGO activists. There are very few North Korean defectors who have experience of receiving international food aids sent to North Korea. Not only the North Korean government but neither also the assisting countries nor the international aids organizations admit such an ugly fact. In the shadow of the “well known secret,” over three million people died of starvation.

Excessive Profit By Selling Aid Supplies in the Markets

Mr. Kim Man Chul recorded the scenes of Sunam Market located in Chongjin, North Hamkyung province last July. He recorded the scenes of bags of food aids “not even yet opened” piled up in the market.

In the market, the foods from the South Korean government, ICRC, WFP, USAID, and the US government were being sold. All kinds of food displayed in the stalls were only “foods in picture” to the starving common people who could not afford to buy them.

In fact, this is the second time RENK (Rescue The North Korean People ! Urgent Action Network) obtained concrete evidence of food aids being sold illegally in North Korea. First time was in August 2003, we were able to obtain a video clip that contains scenes of food aids from South Korea, US, and the WFP being sold in the Market located in Hyesan City, Yang-gang province at the quadrupled price of the government set price for foods. Although the video clip raised much interest, aids organizations excused themselves with the official statements such as, “we will strengthen the monitoring.”

The Aids Sent to the People of Ryongchon Sold in Chongjin

At the time of the Ryongchon incident, the North Korean government’s unprecedented report on the accident brought a massive assistance into Ryongchon from the international society. Even the Japanese government, which had been agonizing about the “Japanese Abductees in North Korea,” sent aids amounting to 100,000 USD through the World Health Organization.

However, less than in two month time, the “aids for Ryongchon” were being sold in the market in Chongjin. Chongjin is about 500Km away from Ryoungchun, even if you drew a straight line between the two cities. Since the train seldom runs and stops at every local places of North Korea, it would have taken more than double the time one would normally take to transports all the aids. Considering the bad condition of the North Korea’s current transportation system, there is no doubt that the food was systematically taken out to the markets. Furthermore, the amount of food being sold makes obvious that the government offices were involved together to let it happen.

North Korean Government Makes Large Profit by the Aids

The prices for grains sold in Sunam Market are astonishing. 430won for 1kg of rice. Since the state set price for rice at the time was 46won per kilo of rice, it is about ten times more expensive. Considering that a worker’s average wage ranges from 2,000won to 3,000won, it means that he can only buy six kilograms of rice with his entire monthly wage. However, 80% of the factories are no longer in business and they do not pay the workers. The emergency food aids were went to be distributed to the people for free. However, they are sold with the highest price people can ever afford, which leads us to the conclusion that someone is making a lot of profit by selling all those food aids.

Two years ago when “Hyesan market video clip” was revealed, the South Korean government and the international aids organizations argued for “recycling of the grain bags.” In other words, the grain bags meant more than the contents inside the bags. In North Korea with shortage of every kind of munitions, the grain bags that contained the food aids, were recycled for all kinds of purposes until they had holes. In some cases, the bags with “Red Cross” are used in the political or labor concentration camps, where the prisoners use them to move things such as sand. This is a sad comedy.

However, like last time, the video clip contained the scenes that showed not yet opened grain bags. Therefore, “recycling” argument is no longer applicable. What we must pay more attention in is the scene where Mr. Kim Man Chul asks the seller where the grains came from. The seller testifies that they “came from Ryongchon.”

There are more evidences that the aids sold in the markets were circulated by the government. It is the same with the medical supplies. The seller selling medical supplies says, “Since the medications are from the UN, you can trust them.” The seller guarantees the qualification of the medications to sell them.

Aids Taken Out by the Military and the Party Offices

In such a case, who are the ones illegally selling the aid supplies? They are the People’s Army and the Party offices. However, the international organizations and the aid providing countries silence about it. As explained previously, the only ones who have capacity to circulate the food aids (which requires transportation, energy, and transportation permit) in such a short amount time are the government offices. About such a well-known fact, the South Korean NGO, Good Friends, provides much more detailed information.

January 17, “Good Friends” published the North Korean government’s secret “Food Aids Allotting Principle.”

* First Allotment : Department of People’s Armed Forces (appx. 30% of entire amount)
* Second Allotment : Special Government Offices (appx 10%)
* Third Allotment : Military Goods Manufacturing Factories and State Owned Enterprises (appx. 10%)
* Fourth Allotment : Municipal and District Food Adminstrative Center (appx. 50%)

The contents of the report overlap with the scenes shown in the video clip. With the Good Friend’s report and the Sunam Market video clip together, we can draw a clear framework of the organization and the structure of corrupted food circulation by the government offices.

The People’s Army and the military related factories first take half of the food aid. The other half goes to ‘the Food Adminstrative Center’. The Food Adminstrative Center is a administrative office that manages food distribution (distributes food according to the government set prices), which also releases government prices for the food. The government of North Korea after the 7.1 Act in 2002 (which officially abolished the food distribution system), it promised that it would provide more than half of the minimum amount of necessary food to the people at the half of the state price (40won per 1 kilo or rice). However, in reality, the food was only sold to the 30% of the population which special rights.

In details the special group included (in order) the families of revolution heroes, and government officials of the administrative offices, Party offices, prosecute, the national safely and security departments, and the People’s Safety Agency. In other words, the Food Adminstrative Center has nothing to do with the common people. In spite of such a reality, the international aids organizations and the aid providing countries believe monitoring of food up until the food arrival to the Food Adminstrative Center is sufficient.

Foods Distributed to the People’s Army also Resold in the Markets

The principle of the emergency food aid is “free distribution.” When that the food aids were being sold by the Food Adminstrative Centerwas reveals, the government of South Korea rather acceptingly said, “Although we regret (that such thing is happening) we believe they are sold at a reasonable price.” Although it is unacceptable with a doubt, if they are sold at the state prices, I may perhaps agree to a certain degree. However, the reality is far different from the imagination of the South Korean government. The emergency aid supplies are not sold at the state prices, they are sold ten times more expensive.

For example, the military officials who receive certain amount of food allotted by the government, distribute only a little amount to their soldiers and sell the rest in the market. That is how they make a large sum of profit. The officials at the military manufacturing areas use the same method. This is how the food aids are overflowing but sold in the markets. It is a mere dram to believe “the food left after distributing to the military will reach the common people.”

Stobbornly calling such a phenomenon a humanitarian assistance is as same as calling a crow a swan. To be correct, we must call it “fund assistance” to the special group and dictatorship government offices. The US Human Rights Act excludes a part on “humanitarian aids.” This is a reflection of the American thought, “Do not use food as weapons.”

Without Secured Transparency, Aids Only to Help the Dictatorship

The US congress passed the North Korean Human Rights Act last year. The act excludes parts on “policy agast the regime” and “humanitarian aids” that can take place in the future. This is the evidence of the American philosophy of “Do not use food as weapons” present in the act.

However, there are conditions for American “humanitarianism.” In the same act, Art.2 says that such assistance is provided on a needs basis, and is not used as a political reward or tool of coercion;(clause 202b).

This condition includes the gap in the international organization and all other humanitarian aids supported by the US. However, in Sunam Market of Chungjin, grain bags with the USAID logos were also found. In the recent report submitted by the USAID to the US congress notes, “food aids going into North Korea are not distributed transparently.” The “Do not use food as weapons” philosophy are entirely betrayed and violated in North Korea, the real of Kim Jong Il dictatorship.

North Korean government is illegally circulating and selling the international food aids. Unless we eradicate this happening, humanitarian aids to North Korea is a void, actually, it is harmful to the people of North Korea.

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