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[Opinion] Rice and Fertilizer

Posted February. 20, 2007 06:49,   


Shortly after the division of the Korean peninsula, South Korea suffered food shortage due to the suspension of chemical fertilizer shipments from the Heungnam fertilizer plant in South Hamgyeong Province. The Heungnam fertilizer plant was a world-class fertilizer plant with an annual production of 480,000 tons. The South received about two thirds of the fertilizer it produced, but its supply system was suspended overnight. Before 1961, when the Chungju fertilizer plant was built, the South’s agricultural sector had a hard time as a result.

The aging Heungnam fertilizer plant doesn’t properly function anymore. Some analysts even say that at present, North Korea can afford to produce only 50,000 tons of fertilizer, less than one tenth of the optimum level of 600,000 tons.

The world’s population never exceeded one billion before the Industrial Revolution because of chronic food shortages. However, as many as 6 billion people live on the planet today thanks to chemical fertilizer, which has resulted in the increased production of food. As long as the North doesn’t have enough fertilizer to live on, it will be hard for North Korea to resolve its food shortages.

Former Unification Minister Chung Se-hyun said on a radio program, “The North Korean people have no reason to seek a friendly relationship with the South unless the South provides them with rice and fertilizer.” Chung made the above statement with the inter-Korean ministerial talks to be held in Pyongyang on February 27 in mind. This remark clearly shows what the so-called “cooperation between South and North,” which the North emphasizes, actually means. Chung’s statement is no different from his own confession, saying that North Korea is just trying to get money and goods from the South. Chung was in charge of dealing with the North, serving as unification minister two times under the Kim Dae-jung administration and the current administration.

Both rice and fertilizer are necessities for humans to lead a decent life. Let’s leave the Kim Jong Il regime, which can’t even settle this matter, as is. But what about the government in South? Chung must have referred to northern officials when he said “North Koreans.” This mention is an admission that the current administration has been cooperating with the Kim Jong Il regime. The value of progress lies in pursuing freedom and human rights and confronting oppression. President Roh Moo-hyun called himself a champion of “flexible progress,” but the current cooperation between the two Koreas, which turns a blind eye to the inhumane conditions facing North Korea, is neither progress nor cooperation.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com