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[Editorial] Emphasis on people's voluntary participation in NK aid

[Editorial] Emphasis on people's voluntary participation in NK aid

Posted October. 11, 2000 21:12,   


It was disclosed that substantial portions of the fund for the purchase of the fertilizer to aid North Korea, which was delivered via the Republic of Korea National Red Cross last year, were apparently funded by the compulsory contributions of business firms. The initial plan was that the half of the fertilizer purchase fund, amounting to some 18 billion won, was to be met by the South-North Cooperation Fund, and the rest raised by civic sectors' contributions.

But, it is now revealed that the cabinet ministers were mobilized to exact compulsory contributions from corporations, as the voluntary donations were not forthcoming. The five business conglomerates, including firms like Daewoo with its impending bankruptcy, and big public corporations had to donate 1 billion won each at the request of the Federation of Korea Industries on behalf of the government.

It should be recalled here that the Kim Dae-Jung administration made it clear from the outset that it would eliminate any forms of quasi-taxation on corporations to make compulsory `donations.' Contrary to such pledges, however, the administration spearheaded the movement to resort to such quasi-taxation to raise the fund. Against such an adverse business environment, it is hardly reasonable for us to expect our businesses to remain viable and retain international competitiveness.

Adequate attention must be paid here to the marginal responses from the civic sectors for the fund-raising. The record indicates that the civic sectors' voluntary donations amounted only to 2 billion won, which represents 5 percent of the targeted total. This illustrates the fact that the administration's unilateral decision to aid North Korea failed to win the people's support. This situation was the administration's own creation because it did not care to express any concerns nor made any real effort to gain the people's feedback to buttress its fertilizer aid decision for North Korea.

No change was shown in the highhanded attitude of this administration from its fertilizer aid last year to the recent food aid to Pyongyang. The administration assured the general public in August that it would take steps to ascertain the people's support for its North Korea food assistance after the second inter-Korean ministerial meeting. But, it did not take any step in any form to ask people's opinions on the food aid although the corn aid shipped to a North Korean port was unloaded.

The administration may argue that it sees no problem because the money for the food aid came from the South-North Cooperation Fund, which had already obtained parliamentary approval. Such an argument may save it from any legal liabilities, but the general public will certainly turn their back on the administration's attitude.

Granted, no one would object to the government's decision for humanitarian aid, if it were for poor Africans, let alone our fellow compatriots in the North. The problem we see here is the way the administration unilaterally makes such decisions without fully informing the people and executes the decision in secrecy, which in turn gives rise to suspicions and criticisms.

The aid to fellow compatriots must embody the givers' sense of pleasure. As it is, one can hardly avoid the impression that the administration exacts compulsory donations against the donors' voluntary will to give it to the North. The effects of such aid can hardly be fully appreciated. The grassroots support for the administration's North Korea policies will fall asunder should its aid continue in such a fashion lacking people's feedback.