m a r k a n d e y a

MSNBC: NK cuts off U.N. food, ignites famine fears

Posted by Brian on December 30, 2005

It looks like North Korea is up to its patented “middle finger” approach to domestic governing and international diplomacy:

The New Year seldom brings much to celebrate in North Korea — where food and energy shortages regularly accompany a long, bitter winter. This time around the outlook is even more uncertain, as Pyongyang’s Stalinist government moves to reassert control over the food supply, a move some experts fear will lead the isolated country into another famine.

With the end of 2005, the U.N.’s World Food Program is slated to shut down its decade-long food distribution effort in North Korea after Pyongyang told the organization that the aid was no longer needed. The program was the biggest multinational humanitarian program in the country and was instrumental in pulling North Korea out of a famine that killed up to 2.5 million people in the mid-1990s and drove many to flee the country.

At the same time, the government announced it would revert to central control of all grain distribution, shutting down market-based experiments in grain sales that started in 2002. Then the military reportedly seized grain earmarked as incentives for growers, while promising increased rations across the board.

Needless to say, Korea experts don’t think too highly of Kim Jong-il’s latest gambit. Marcus Nolan comments:

“After implementing incentives for growers … the state has basically gone in and reneged. They may be setting themselves up for another humanitarian crisis.”


“If you give the food through the WFP, it is more likely to reach vulnerable people. If you give the food to the North Korean government, it will distribute according to its own preferences, which are basically political.”

Clark Sorenson comments:

“From my point of view, what the international community needs to do is avoid supporting the public distribution system, because it just reinforces the power of (Kim Jong Il’s) Korean Workers Party and the political elite.”

The MSNBC article also features an internet poll asking the following question: Do you think countries should send food aid to North Korea if Pyongyang does not allow outside monitoring of its distribution? As of now, with 4,700 votes in, 77% of respondents, including your humble blogger, voted no. Go and throw in your own two cents.



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