Monday, February 9, 2009

Remember North Korea !

North Korea seems to linger on as one of a handful of communist nations still in existence. It has become a de facto monarchy, in which Kim Il Sung, the founder of the country passed power to his son, Kim Jong Il. If it were simply a bizarre hermit kingdom, it could be shrugged off as an odd little place.

Unfortunately, North Korea has taken its place at the side of the Ukraine as a man made famine. In the 1990's there were three million deaths of starvation during crop failures. The official story this year is that there will be a bumper crop and that there is no need for foreign aid. VOA News suggests a consideration that has nothing to do with the welfare of the people, that of secrecy.

According to VOA News, "Some foreign experts suggest the main reason North Korea is expelling food aid workers is because it has recently received sharp increases in food donations from South Korea and the North's ally, China. Unlike many other donor nations, which try to monitor where aid goes under North Korean restrictions, the two countries have been delivering food largely with no conditions attached. Political analysts say this suits Pyongyang's isolationist government, which is eager to avoid outside scrutiny.

Mr. Bourke says North Korean authorities think the presence of 40 WFP foreign

People search for leftover grains in a field south of Pyongyang
People search for leftover grains in a field south of Pyongyang
staffers means too much access to real conditions in the country.

"It's a substantial presence [of foreigners] moving about the country, talking to communities, to families, visiting schools and kindergartens, asking all kinds of questions," he added. "Monitoring is a concern of the North Korean government and they have made it very clear to us that that is one of the issues for them."

What sort of questions would trouble Pyongyang? The primary question is the rigid caste system that has paradoxically crept into a country that pays lip service to striving for a classless society. The highest class is the members of the Communist Party and the military. They are well fed. They live in showcase areas open to foreigners such as Pyongyang and the free trade strip near the DMZ. They have what amounts to a security clearance. This means that they are ideologically reliable. So tightly managed is Pyongyang that even those who must use wheelchairs are banned from living there. It is almost like a master race showcase.

The next level is for people who are not party members but go along with the regime. Such areas are less well fed. It should be noted that these people live in areas where foreigners are not allowed. At great risk to their lives, North Korean activists have smuggled video footage out that show truly grim conditions.

There are several levels of political reliability. Each has its own zone. The lowest levels are huge concentration camps. The people in the lowest caste are literally worked to death and fed starvation rations. They are frequently tortured and executed at the slightest provocation. Only one person is known to have escaped from this level of the North Korean prison system. These death camp areas are hundreds of square miles that are visible by satellite. It is not individuals who are banished there but entire families. If one person says something deemed subversive, is caught attending an underground church or engaging in black market activity, his parents, grandparents spouse and children are banished with him. Entire families join the caste of outcastes because of the action of one individual. This is a powerful incentive to conform.

Westerners and outsiders want aid to reach all levels of North Korean society. The North Korean government, however is determined to use the famine as a weapon against its enemies and to use foreign aid as another means to control the population. Not only is famine often caused by mismanagement. Its effects are also managed so that they are distributed as the regime wishes.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans risked and continue to risk their lives to escape to Communist China, which is in comparison to North Korea an oasis of prosperity. The North Koreans live a shadow existence, working underground jobs and living in constant fear of deportation back to North Korea, which would be a death sentence for them.

China's one child policy has also magnified the suffering of the North Korean refugees. Many families use ultrasound so they can select the gender of their only child. A disproportionate number of parents abort a female child . This has created a shortage of females in many parts of China. Such shortages fuel both prostitution and a black market in brides. It is estimated that 80% of the North Korean female refugees end up in prostitution, forced marriage or a combination of the two.

North Korea has been holding reunification talks with South Korea. There are many families that have been divided since the Korean War ended in 1953 who long to see each other. Korean investors see in the North a work force that is docile, literate and far cheaper than its South Korean counterpart. It is perhaps for these reasons that the South has adopted a "Sunshine Policy" of not confronting the communist government in the north.

Thousands of families have since 1953 lost loved ones to North Korean pirates who kidnap them and bring them to the North to be indoctrinated and to work as spies. Unlike the Japanese who fought strongly for the return of their kidnapped citizens, the South Koreans have been timid, even to the point of bullying the families who demonstrate for the release of their loved ones. Some angry families refer derisively to the Sunshine Policy as the "Shoeshine Policy".

It is critical that the welfare of the North Korean people be considered separate from the welfare of their godless government. In our troubled times, this troubled land must not be forgotten. In the age of the internet, the truth is out there.

There is an organisation with a website that is involved in advocacy, education and assistance to the oppressed people of North Korea The name of the organisation is LINK. (Liberty In North Korea) Here is the link to their site.

The world has many areas in which there is hunger, war and desperation. North Korea is all to easily forgotten.Its own government wants to paint over its own dismal failures. We are now in the midst of a world wide economic downturn. As we ask G-d mercy for ourselves, we must show mercy to others. Through material aid, lobbying and prayer it is important to champion the voiceless, the downtrodden and the forgotten. I urge my readers to educate themselves about this issue and to support those who are trying to make a difference.

P.S. I went to the LINK site and made a $36.00 donation. I wish I could have given more. I hope I will be joined by my readers in helping the people of North Korea.



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