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Human suffering outweighs rhetoric

By Leah Coffman
On April 30, 2013

 

The increasingly dangerous and war-mongering rhetoric of North Korea and its leadership has dominated the headlines in recent weeks. A nuclear state that is willing to use its capabilities to threaten its neighbors is unacceptable in the modern world.

North Korea's enraged rhetoric regarding nuclear warfare has incensed far more than the United States. Their actions have offended not only their enemies but their closest allies. China has publicly stated that it opposes North Korea's nuclear weapons program. On April 8 China's President Xi Jingping stated, "No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains." This statement was a dramatic shift in China's public policy toward North Korea, as China has previously supported the insular nation as its only major ally. However, China, alongside the rest of the United Nations, has strongly opposed North Korea's nuclear aggression.

North Korea's violent stance against the West and South Korea seems downright hypocritical in light of the amount of aid they have received from the countries they profess to hate. According to a congressional research report, the United States supplied North Korea with over $1.2 billion in food aid between 1995 and 2009. The United Nations has also supplied the impoverished country with food aid.  In addition, while the South Korean state does not provide the DPPK with aid, many private organizations within the country supply their hostile enemy with food, fuel oil and medicine.

This amount of aid suggests the scale of the humanitarian crisis on the ground in North Korea. The country has an infant mortality rate of 26.2 children per 1,000 births and receives approximately $78 million in development aid every year, according to The Guardian. Asia Times also estimated in 2012 that the average household salary is approximately $30 per month, in contrast to the over $3,000 per month earned in South Korea.

The country has been ravaged by floods and famine, causing the regime to beg for aid from neighboring Mongolia while moving missiles to the borders.

Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the entire crisis is the difficulty in getting aid to those who desperately need it. A major part of the stoppage of food aid from the United States was the lack of oversight in the earlier distribution of aid, according to Richard King, special envoy for North Korean human rights.

In the past there has been little certainty that the aid has reached far beyond the military and into the mouths of those who need it. Multiple aid agencies have spoken of the difficulties in helping the people of North Korea.

Despite the human suffering, Pyongyang continues to rattle its sabers. However, those who would suggest retaliation should think of the starving masses instead of the angry rhetoric of a dictator.


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