Look hard at human rightsA family of four North Koreans left the North Korean port of Chongjin, crossing the East Sea in a small wooden boat. They covered a distance of 900 kilometers (559 miles) and arrived at a port in northern Japan. After enduring six days of life-and-death struggle they succeeded in escaping the North. It has been 20 years since another North Korean family accomplished a similar feat in 1987. Without hesitation they cited hunger as their reason for escaping North Korea. The defectors said they had to live on scraps of bread each day. So far, the international community, including South Korea, has provided the North with a million tons of food per year. Despite such aid, hunger-driven tragedies such these are happening. Once more this shows that there is a serious problem in the distribution of food.
Even more problematic is the outlook by experts that the food shortage in the North will only get worse. This is because last year the North was struck by flooding while international aid has been reduced due to the North Korean nuclear issue.
The World Food Program’s Pyongyang office said that food aid to the North in 2006 amounted to only 12 percent of the previous year, a mere 15,000 tons.
This is worrisome, and the issue of North Korean defectors could assume bigger proportions.
The North Korean defector issue has become a hot issue in the region.
The number of North Korean defectors to the South has surpassed the 10,000 mark.
North Korean defectors who have crossed the border of North Korea and China and gone to a third country, including China, are said to number 100,000.
These problems bring to light other complex issues, including human rights violations. If you add to this a possible increase of North Korean defectors using sea routes for escape, it is very clear that this is a serious challenge to our security and economy.
That is why the current incident is in the spotlight, especially with the possibility that tighter border controls at the North Korean-Chinese border may have caused this particular escape.
Citing inter-Korean relations, the government has treated the North Korean defector issue as if it is a distant problem. It has closed its eyes to human rights issues and has failed to overcome its attitude of appeasing the North.
The incident has demonstrated that the issue cannot be resolved in the way the government would like. It’s time to change ideas.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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