[EDITORIALS]Assistance as a bargaining chipThe misery of Cheongjin residents in North Korea, as exclusively covered by the JoongAng Ilbo, was very shocking. Scenes such as the photo of a boy crawling in a train station square wearing a shoe that revealed his toes were too horrible to describe. One might ask whether the newspaper only picked the most tragic scenes, but the stark truth is that the lives of North Koreans have reached a seriously wretched level. The primary responsibility for such misery lies with the North Korean authorities. What’s more regrettable is that it appears virtually impossible to expect any solutions from these authorities. The situation has gotten so desperate that we ourselves cannot but step in.
First, we must change our method of assistance that has so far stopped at sending material goods. Our assistance to North Korea since the launching of a civilian government has amounted to over 1 trillion won ($951 million). A large portion of this assistance was provided in the form of rice and fertilizers. Yet, the starvation of North Korean residents has yet to be solved. Despite our aid, North Korea still lacks about 1,500,000 tons of food every year.
Therefore, our assistance to North Korea should be focused on how to increase agricultural productivity. The government should establish detailed agricultural cooperation projects such as sending more agricultural tools and machinery, giving fertilizers for potato crops and operating model farms.
But without the voluntary participation of the North Korean side, our assistance will be futile.
Pyeongyang announced earlier this month that it will concentrate on enhancing agricultural productivity. However, North Korea should not keep demanding food and fertilizer from us, like in the past, while insisting on taking care of the rest themselves. Our government should not accept such demands from Pyeongyang if it truly wants to help the North Koreans. The government should strongly consider using assistance as a bargaining chip when Pyeongyang does not cooperate.
The food shortage in North Korea has reached a new low. If even the residents of Cheongjin, which was known to be a relatively wealthy region of North Korea, are digging up garbage to find food, then the situation in other regions must be worse. Effective assistance measures on the part of our government along with an awakening on part of the North Korean authorities are urgently needed.