Food Assistance Alone Cannot Change North Korean Society

The total figure of international humanitarian aid to North Korea from 1996 to September of 2002, including that of South Korea, reaches $2.4 billion dollars. The countries that have sent aid in the order of the amount of aid sent are as following; Japan- $900 million dollars, U.S. – $6.2 million dollars, EU- $2.84 million dollars, China- 2.7 million dollars. Among all the aid, food aid consists of about $3.79 million dollars. Food aid to the WFP for North Korea in 2002 was about $2.14 million dollars including 100,000 tons of corn from South Korea and 155,000 tons from the U.S.

In 2002, South Korean government aid reached up to approximately 113.8 billion won included 300,000 tons of fertilizer, and 100,000 tons of corn and aid on the civil level reached up to 43 billion won. Furthermore, the South Korean government has been sending 400,000 tons of rice every year as a form of loan. Apart from official aid, it is a known fact that there have been various aids sent to North Korea in a number of different ways.

What is the reason North Korea has not been able to solve its food problems despite this massive aid? Let’s start with the conclusion. North Korea’s economic problem which includes the food problem is not due to a crisis caused by natural disaster, but is a problem that has been accumulating for a long time. It is a structural problem that cannot be solved in a short amount of time.

The fact that the food shortage that has lasted an entire decade and that it does not seem to get any better, indicates that the crisis is not ‘temporary.’ The problem further indicates to us that the reason for the North Korean economic crisis and food shortage does not come from external factors, but the solution must originate from national administration and ability. The fundamental reasons lie in the North Korean ‘Dear Leader autocracy,’ in addition to socialist ideals.

In other words, the reason why North Korea is facing total economic collapse which no other socialist state suffered is due to privatization by Kim Jong Il and a strict ‘military first policy’ that does not allow for any liberal economic activities. North Korea’s economic crisis and food shortage is a tragedy created by Kim Jong Il’s unrealistic illusions and violent desires which he tried to realize though military force. For this reason, it is difficult to find solutions to these problems only though international aid.

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