North Koreans Are Starving

March 26th, 2011

By Dan Miller

Starving Children in North KoreaAccording to this article, more than six million people there “urgently need food aid because of substantial falls in domestic production, food imports and international aid, the United Nations said on Friday.” Sixteen million (58.27%) of the 27,457,492 people there rely on the state-run distribution system.

There is no mention in the article of some of the more significant reasons for the devastating food shortage: diversion of food supplies to a large active (1,170,000), reserve (4,700,000) and paramilitary (189,000) military force of 6,059,000 in 2008; with significant international food aid that diversion seems likely to continue and to increase; at least those put on public display appear to be rather well nourished.

Nor are past and likely future diversions to the major and minor powers-that-be within the present Kim regime mentioned.  Nor is there any mention of the significant financial resources North Korea devotes to military matters, including developing nuclear weapons and means for their delivery or to the possibility that these resources could be devoted instead to enhancing the welfare of the North Koreans through “Juche” (self-reliance), long its slogan.  Nor is any note taken that Kim Jong-il is at least as crazy as Libya’s Colonel Qaddafi.

It is not the fault of the unfortunate serfs of North Korea that they live (and die) as they do. However, by enabling the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the more civilized countries of the world would not significantly better them and would not only prolong their misery but assist in sharpening the nuclear sword on which we have for too long sat rather than require it to be sheathed.

(This article was also posted at The PJ Tatler.)

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6 Responses to “North Koreans Are Starving”

  1. Tom Carter |

    Having spent about a decade in international development (USAID), I can tell you that the issue of foreign aid “enabling” corrupt and/or inefficient governments is a perennial debate. It’s discussed and studied by both academics and development professionals, and the problem is very real. Africa, in particular, abounds with negative examples.

    Also consider Iraq during the 12-year no-fly regime and international sanctions. Any fool could see that Saddam’s propaganda about sanctions causing children to die of starvation was completely bogus — he somehow found enough money to build multi-million dollar palaces and fund a huge, relatively modern military establishment (that was nonetheless defeated in a few weeks). Despite the obvious, liberal “internationalists” bought it hook, line, and sinker. So we ended up with the “Oil for Food” program, resulting in a huge corruption scandal involving Saddam, his cronies, politicians and businessmen around the world, and high-level UN bureaucrats (including the Secretary General and his family).

    As with most intractable problems, the question is “What’s the answer?” There isn’t a good one. Good government development agencies (U.S., U.K., Canada, most European) try very hard to monitor where aid goes and how it’s used, but that isn’t always easy because of obstacles put in place by host governments. For example, cash grants to governments are difficult to monitor because money is fungible; it’s hard to follow every dollar (in cash or in kind); and we create some of our own problems.

    In that last category, consider that when USAID contracts with a partner organization (like an NGO) to implement development programs (that’s the way most are implemented), execution of the contract can be fairly closely monitored — if the local USAID mission has enough staff and if the contractor doesn’t put up too many self-serving obstacles. If the partner is given a grant, however, it’s pretty much hands-off — very little detailed monitoring is allowed. So, for example, what percentage of the grant goes to overhead (particularly staff salaries, travel, perks, etc) and what percentage goes to the intended purpose? Sometimes we don’t know and can’t find out.

    The only reasonable answer, I think, is to keep trying to do it well and efficiently. U.S. foreign aid spending is a very small piece of our annual budget (one percent or less) and is about 0.2 percent of GDP — much lower than some other countries. It’s an important tool of foreign policy, and it actually does help people who need help. And the enabling problem — yes, but what’s the other answer?

  2. Dan Miller |

    Tom, you ask what’s the answer to the enabling problem incident to providing humanitarian relief to Kim Jong-il et al the starving masses in the DPRK. Here’s the answer, a new but modest proposal guaranteed to succeed:

    Remember the glorious UN Oil for Food scandal program in Iraq a few years ago? It worked so well that it must be revived as a “Nukes and Other Wondrous Weapons for Tasty Food” (NOW WTF) program under UN auspices.

    Not only will Dear Leader Kim have more well fed people to control, with several billion dollars in extra cash he will have sufficient money to enjoy his remaining life and to continue to buy trinkets for himself and his friends. When he passes to the great people’s collective in the sky, his heirs will continue the program in the same spirit as a fitting monument to his wisdom.

    The nukes and weapons will, of course, be sold under strict UN monitoring and only to peace loving countries such as Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the future Palestinian state. Where will those impoverished countries find the money to buy the stuff? Why, through humanitarian assistance to be provided by the United States, obviously. The UN is really good about ensuring that its programs don’t get screwed up with corruption and stuff; this will be a Surely Novel and Fortunately Unending (SNAFU) program.

  3. Tom Carter |

    Well said, Dan…I think. If your NOW WTF program works like Oil for Food, then that means that lots of corrupt officials (especially at the UN), crooked businessmen, etc will be allocated a share of the DPRK nuke output and profit from their sale on the market, right? Hmmm…lots of interesting possibilities there.

  4. Brian |

    I dunno…NOW WTF seems like a made-up name along the lines of Naughteous Maximus and Biggus Dikus.

  5. Dan Miller |

    Brian, I can’t imagine what on Earth you could possibly mean. Obviously, I used the letters “WTF” as did President Obama, to mean “Win the Future.” Is there some other possible meaning?

    Should I happen to encounter Sarah Palin, I shall of course ask her what she meant when she used that acronym, but assume that she intended the same meaning as did I. Didn’t she?

  6. Brian |


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