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[Opinion] Gifts from the U.S.

Posted August. 23, 2008 07:40,   


North Korea`s Foreign Ministry has strongly denounced Ulchi Freedom Guardian, an annual joint exercise between U.S. and South Korean forces. A ministry spokesman in Pyongyang said the drill is clear evidence of the hostile U.S. and South Korean policy against the North and a military provocation. The North Korean military also criticized the exercise, saying, “The country will boost its war deterrent to counter the military threat posed by the United States.” Despite its potential for getting removed from the U.S. list of countries sponsoring terrorism, North Korea still considers the United States its archenemy.

To our surprise, the antagonistic North agreed to display two bags of grain with the phrase "gift from the U.S.” in Korean at each food distribution site, the Voice of America said yesterday. In other words, the Stalinist country decided to inform its citizens that the United States is no longer its enemy, but a benevolent donor country. The food from the United States is expected to be distributed to 131 out of 148 counties through the United Nation World Food Program and U.S. charity organizations. This means the gifts will be delivered across the communist country. We wonder how North Koreans think about getting food aid from their once sworn enemy.

Since the United States pledged to send 500,000 tons of food to the North in May, Washington has sent 93,000 tons of corn. Accepting the aid, the North has made unprecedented concessions. For instance, Pyongyang has allowed 59 global inspectors to monitor aid to ensure it reaches those most in need. Among 16 monitoring agents sent by U.S. NGOs were three Korean Americans fluent in Korean. The World Food Program established offices in four districts to monitor the food distribution.

All this implies that North Korea is suffering from a grave food shortage. The U.N. program urged South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to provide 150,000 tons of corn worth 60 million U.S. dollars for the North. If the food is to be delivered to our hunger-stricken brethren, Seoul needs to actively engage in even indirect assistance through the program. There is no reason to feel regret over the delay in South Korea`s direct food aid. Even if North Koreans never know about the aid from the South, Seoul should send aid if the food can save people from starving to death.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)