&#91EDITORIALS&#93Help the North's children

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[EDITORIALS]Help the North's children

The JoongAng Ilbo and the Korean Welfare Foundation, a nongovernmental charity that supports North Korea, have jointly launched a campaign to help North Korean children. It is very encouraging that many South Koreans are responding to the spirit of the campaign and are making contributions. However, some are skeptical whether a fund-raising move to support the North is appropriate amid the North's nuclear threats.

It's important that we wait no longer to help North Korean children, despite Pyeongyang's nuclear aspirations. The campaign is an urgent humanitarian move that should not be delayed any further. The victims who have suffered the most by the food crisis in the North are children, and that is a serious matter. James Morris, executive director of the World Food Program, has already warned that 4 million North Korean children will die of starvation before the end of 2003 unless additional food supplies are made by foreign donors.

By far the majority of North Korean children who died happen to be born in the famine-stricken communist state. A large group of children are suffering chronic malnutrition and underdevelopment. By 2000, more than 45 percent of the children under age of 5 were suffering because of serious food shortages. Those who were lucky to survive often ended up physically disabled; many of them are likely to suffer from brain damage, heart failure, liver problems and failing eyesight.

Who are these children? They will be a valuable human resource to build our society on after reunification. If many of them join a unified Korea as disabled grown-ups, our society will have to cover a staggering amount in medical and rehabilitation expenses. That is why we must not ignore them but help them -- right now. Humanitarian spirit is rather a luxury at this point. If we help them a little now, the savings will be huge in the future. After unification, North Koreans will not be able to blame South Koreans for sitting back with their arms folded. A contribution of 5,000 won ($4) will feed a child for a month. We ask everyone to give generously.

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