Consider humanitarian aidNorth Korea has been hit hard by recent flooding. After torrential rain from Typhoon Lionlock poured into the Tumen River basin in North Hamgyeong from August 29 to September 2, the region has been hit with the worst floods since 1945.
North Korea estimates that 138 people have died, more than 400 are missing and about 30,000 houses are damaged. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which mobilizes and coordinates humanitarian assistance to people in need worldwide, as many as 140,000 North Koreans lost their homes and 600,000 suffer from a critical shortage of drinking water and widespread hygiene problems.
South Koreans must have had mixed feelings after seeing the areas struck by the floods on television. Even when they are tempted to give a helping hand to their northern brethren, they feel deep anger at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He pushed the button on the fifth nuclear test regardless of his people’s plea for government support.
Kim went ahead with development of nuclear weapons amid the truly indescribable plight of his own people. If he really wants to prove the veracity of his vow to promote the wellbeing of the North Korean people, Kim should have paid heed to their wounds, both mental and physical.
Even ten days after his brazen muclear test, we have not heard of him visiting the flood-devastated area.
That’s why it is difficult for us to propose aid to North Koreans desperately in need of outside help. Even civic groups in South Korea, which have been ardently advocating humanitarian aid under any circumstances, are increasingly reluctant to offer help to the North.
A civic association that consists of 59 civic groups to promote cooperation and exchanges with North Korea decided on Sept. 9 to provide aid to the North for its recovery from the flood damage, but their plan came to a halt after the North’s fifth nuclear test on the same day.
Nevertheless, we must separate political issues from the very human issue of people in torment living under one of the world’s most repressive regimes. The World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, has kicked off a campaign to offer emergency food to 140,000 flood victims in the North, not to mention the good work of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Kim Jong-un may not deserve such treatment, but our government needs to consider the idea of sending relief to North Koreans suffering from incomprehensible pain.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 19, page 30