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[EDITORIALS]Help the North, for now

Aug 04,2006
The floods that tore through North Korea have reportedly left immeasurable damage. The human casualties, including the dead and the missing, so far number 10,000 though reports on the number of victims range from 1 million to 1.5 million. Although we cannot know the actual situation of comprehensive damage because North Korean authorities have not made an official report, things certainly seem grave since North Korea has canceled not only the Arirang Festival but also the August 15 Unification Festival.
Taking into consideration the pain of the North Korean people, it is proper for the government and normal people to take the initiative and help the North Koreans, but even if we want to assist them, the status of the North and South Korean relationship makes it difficult to do so. Perhaps this is due to the chilly relationship between the two countries since the North’s recent test-firing of missiles, but either way, North Korea isn’t putting out its hand. The Korean Red Cross expressed its desire to help through the International Red Cross, but the North refused. The head of North Korea’s economic cooperation committee in Liaoning, China, reportedly expressed that the country would accept aid, but it is difficult to view this as the North Korean government’s official request.
The South Korean government has no choice but to wait and listen to the public. Since it has announced that it will stop providing rice and fertilizer, it doesn’t want to give the impression that it is opening up aid to the North.
However, the flood in North Korea right now is a natural disaster that requires emergency relief. It is not a problem that entails political considerations. It is for these reasons that private relief groups have taken it upon themselves to act, and governing and opposition political circles have urged the government to provide emergency support.
The government is reportedly reviewing a plan to participate in aid using a matching-fund method if civil groups request that the government participate in emergency relief efforts. Although it is not the best method, it is appropriate for the time being.
The North Korean government should also think of the pain that its people are going through and present a detailed list of the relief goods it needs. Only then can effective support be provided. Including rice in the list of relief goods would not be going back on the measure to stop support to the North. If it is only a one-time support effort in the name of emergency relief, there should be no reason to raise controversy over the issue.


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