Rice Aid to North Korea and Role of the NGOs

[imText1]In order to increase transparency in distribution of food aid to North Korea, it is increasingly argued that the role of the NGOs is essential.

For this to be, as part of the NGO monitoring, NGOs presence in the locations the food are distributed to and send NGO food aid as a part of the food aid.

In September 1, Marcus Noland, senior fellow in Institute for International Economics of the US held a press conference at the Washington National Press Center and said, “because the food aid sent by the South Korean government does not go through the World Food Program (WFP), transparency guarantee is very difficult.”

The South Korean Ministry of Unification immediately gave out a refuting statement which stated, “The arguments of Noland are different from the fact.” It has listed the effort of the South Korean government to secure transparency in food distribution.

As the transparency of the government food aid to North Korea is evermore increasing, the food aid sending NGOs or North Korean human rights organizations argued that the government can increase transparency by allowing the NGO monitor official to participate in verifying distribution in site, or increase NGO aid to North Korea.

An official at the Ministry of Unification said in the phone interview with The DailiyNK, “We have agreed with North Korea to send 500,000tons of rice this year, and at every 100,000tons to allow us to verify on distribution. The issue of transparency guarantee is improving.”

“Government Officials to visit the sites, 5 People in a Group, Interview to be Conducted”

The Ministry of Unification send five people to the site for verification at a time. They verify on the documents, conduct civilian interview, take pictures and record video. This year, until all the food aid is sent to North Korea in November, the officials will visit ten towns on each of the eastern and southern coasts.

However, they lack monitoring personnel, and only visit the places where they promise to visit with the North Korean government beforehand, it is criticized that there is little effective verification. Furthermore, because the South Korean government aid to North Korea is working as (political) leverage (for the inter-Korean relations), it is argued that real transparency is hard to be realized.

About securing transparency in aid distribution in North Korea, Kang Young Shick, executive director, Korean Sharing Movement, emphasized efficiency of the civil assistance by saying, “Due to the economic and political issues combined with the special situation the two countries are in, there is limit in securing transparency. Through NGOs, the government demand for transparency and improvement in distribution while it can conduct monitoring more liberally.”

In Marcus Noland’s report with the name “Hunger and Human Rights: The Politics of Famine in North Korea,” presented on September 1, it is also states that in order to solve the problem of government aid, the aid must go through the officially recognized international organizations such as the WFP.

Kim Kyung Hee an organization that sends humanitarian aid to North Korea said, “sending government aid to a nation is a government act, thus requiring transparency in force or demanding it is unrealistic. It is necessary to put more effort to secure transparency at the civil society level”

Need for Enough of Staff, Long Term Stay

It was suggested that another way of improving transparency matter is at the site of distribution, the South Korean government can allow NGO staff to be present at the site.

Oh Kyong Seob, Officemanager, Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, said, “In 2003, we submitted a number of policy advise papers on monitoring, but the government did not accept our idea saying that North Korea will not accept such proposals.”

“If the NGO accompanies the government, it is foresee that the government will be able to raise the level of trust and take actions more bravely,” said Oh.

However, he also says unless the visitors are allowed to see the sites with prior notifications, and unless enough of monitoring staff and adequate amount of time are secured, NGO participation alone cannot make much of an improvement.

Park Sang Hak, executive director, Democracy Network against North Korean Gulag, said, “South Korean rice is much better in quality compare to that of Southeast Asian countries or China that high level party cadres or those in power can always take advantage of their power privilege and steal the food in the middle. There is rarely any person in North Korea who have ever received South Korean rice.”

Park argued that “in a closed society as North Korea, transparent verification is far from the reality. The best way is to allowing enough of staff to stay in the site for a long period of time to conduct an effective monitoring.”

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