[imText1]It has been learned that serious damage has been incurred in North Korea due to heavy rain, which has also led to the cancellation of the Arirang festival.
Due to the heavy rain, hundreds of people have died, and 100,000 tons of food was lost. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that necessary food aid would amount to 830,000 tons between November 2006 to October 2007.
High production agruicultural areas such as Hwanghae and South Pyongan provinces have already complained about likely food shortages next year. North Korean traders from China said that, “due to the damage from the heavy rain, the whole country will face loses”. Many international organizations have voiced a desire to aid the North Korean people after learning of the flooding, keeping the missile conflict a separate issue.
Although international organizations, including the International Red Cross, have offered to aid the North Korean people, North Korea has refused the aid. The World Food Program (WFP) offered to provide 74 tons of food to the Yeungsan district of North Hwanghae province, but due to the WFP condition of monitoring distribution of the food aid, North Korea has refused to accept it.
It was also confirmed that North Korea refused aid offered by the International Red Cross offices in Europe and the U.S., and has not yet responded to an offer of aid made by the Korean National Red Cross. It seems unlikely that the North will accept the aid, as the government has firmly refused external aid, in order to keep the international community ignorant to the situation in the North.
If the North Korean government continues to take this attitude, the number of victims will no doubt increase, particularly as the international community increases the level of isolation against North Korea, which is viewed by many as an inward-looking country that has taken its people hostage.
Kim Jong Il Takes His People Hostage
Last December, when the U.N. General Assembly passed the North Korean Human Rights Resolution, North Korea asked the U.N. office in North Korea to withdraw. During that time, when North Korea refused food aid from the WFP, it was criticized as using its people as hostages to pressure the international community.
The South Korean government officially took the stand that it would not aid North Korea. Although some people have said that ignoring the need for aid is a bad decision, others believe that sending aid when the North did not request it would only it would only invite misunderstanding.
If the government rushes to aid North Korea, it will be criticized for supporting the North, while leaving domestic flood sufferers to fend for themselves.
However, many people point out that even though they maintain an alliance against the North in regard to the missile conflict, the South Korean government should still offer humanitarian assistance. Cooperation through international organizations, such as the WFP, with monitoring of distrubution, could ensure that the North Korean people receive the aid that they need.
In addition to the issue of transparency in aid distribution from the South, the provision of aid would also create the impression that under pressure from the North, the South will submit.
Some have also pointed out that it will be ineffective if South Korea takes only a mild stance toward the isolation policy of North Korea.
The South Korean government should inform North Korea that future aid will not be offered unless the North accepts aid from the international community as well.