By Manoj Rijal, NEW YORK: On May 3, 2019, the United Nations released a food security assessment about North Korea, highlighting a bitter fact that the isolated communist regime is under a severe food crisis and that 10 million of its people are reeling under a situation of acute food shortage.
Just one day after the U.N. report on food scarcity was released, North Korean regime did not listen to the empty bellies of its citizens and as usual, test-fired a super expensive missile that resembled “Iskander” missile of Russia.
The money North Korea wasted in accessing and developing the “Iskander” missile and the money it regularly wastes on developing similar missile technologies, could be spent wisely on feeding its hungry people first.
Almost half of its population remains hungry. Actually they have been forced to remain hungry for decades in the name of national security and self defence.
It is noteworthy to mention here that South Korea, that shares the same language with North Korea, was at a similar level of development in the 1940s.
Mainland China and Taiwan were also at the same level of development with North Korea in the 1940s. Japan was a bit more developed at that time, but now South Korea, China and Japan have almost similar level of development.
Hunger has already become a matter of the past for South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, whereas China has brought poverty to a minimum and negligible level owing to its rapid economic growth and prosperity.
So, where does North Korea stand now compared to its Asian neighbors? North Korea, at the present time, stands nowhere in Asia, as its per capita income, economic growth and the size of its economy — all belong to the category of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Reports often leak from this restrictive country that people are not allowed to leave their villages or settlements without prior approval from the authorities. People cannot grow food of their choice, people cannot eat food of their choice and they are just left to die high and dry, because of starvation.
The best they can do is to force themselves to travel to a nearby area, where there is a big ground or at least some greenery and where they can find some grasses – yes grasses – which they could feed themselves to set off the fire burning inside millions of their bellies.
North Korea considers South Korea as its biggest enemy. However, the South could not see the plight of the North and is sending an aid worth $8 million to its northern neighbor. The aid will be mobilized through the UN channels mainly to deliver food items to children and the pregnant women first.
For the UN’s part, it is raising attention of its member states about the ongoing food crisis in North Korea.
“A particular concern (about North Korea) is the lack of dietary diversity, which is vital to good nutrition. That’s amplified when it comes to families with young children or pregnant and breastfeeding women, who are the most vulnerable to malnutrition,” says the UN in a statement on North Korea.
The whole world is virtually concerned about a humanitarian catastrophe of this scale in North Korea but the incumbent regime in North Korea itself seems to be least bothered about this grave situation of its own people.
The North Korean regime talks about “confidence building” in the dialogue with the United States and international community about the denuclearization process of the Korean Peninsula. However, the acts of testing missiles – almost on a regular basis – are not going to help this cause.
Of late, North Korea is concerned that one of its cargo ships “Wise Honest” that actually violated the terms of international sanctions, was seized by the U.S. in the Pacific Ocean.
On May 21, North Korean ambassador to the UN – Kim Song – organized a press briefing on this matter, claiming that the seizure of its cargo ship was against the UN conventions and other international laws.
Song, however, willingly denied to answer all the questions raised by the journalists, surrounding nitty-gritty of the peace talks and the cargo ship itself.
The seizure, as North Korea has to understand, was actually in retaliation to its deviation from the denuclearization talks and the resumption of the missile tests.
Therefore, if the phrase “confidence building” has to come into real terms, the onus lies on North Korea to make a “wise and honest” start first.
For this, North Korea has to denounce all its missile testing acts – and tantrums – to create a conducive environment for the peace talks.
If peace is to be retained in the Korean Peninsula back to the pre-war level, all sides have to be serious and have to move forward with a distinct and clear goal.
For now, the day North Korea expresses a serious commitment about the peace process and its willingness to chart out a roadmap involving the peace process, it will definitely get its cargo ship back and will also see the international sanctions lifted.
However, such commitments and willingness, from the North Korean side, have to be in the real terms and not just for the public consumption.
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