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WFP crop bags and the smile of North Korean leader

Posted November. 18, 2015 11:46,   


In North Korean media reported on Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jung Un is wearing a white gown with a big smile on his face in the photo, which was taken during his visit to a children’s food factory in Pyongyang. Kim was standing in front of a machine putting rice and barley in crop bags with the name of the World Food Program (WFP) printed on them. There is no telling if the food was actually provided by the WFP or the bags were just recycled based on what appears in the news on Monday. When it comes to the photos with its leader in them, suspicions arise because North Korea is notorious for thorough censorship and its manipulative tendency of air-brushing.

On October 23, 2000, then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright paid a visit to a kindergarten in Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea. Stacked before the malnourished North Korean kids were bags of flour with the mark "USA wheat" printed on them. Nervous before the stack of supplies, the children sang and danced for celebration. Dancing with them, she said with a bright smile, “I am the first U.S. secretary of state to visit North Korea and to dance with North Korean children.” I was covering the news there as reporter, and my mind swirled with mixed-emotions, thinking about how some South Korean kids must have performed a similar show for the aid supplies they got from the U.S back in the old days.

Since July 2013, the WFP has raised funds for children and pregnant women in North Korea as part of its nutrition promotion project, but the money raised so far (88.9 million dollars) is only about 53 percent of the target (167.8 million dollars). This year, Russia was the largest contributor with six million dollars, followed by Switzerland (5.93 million dollars), Australia (2.3 million dollars), South Korea (2 million dollars), Canada (1.6 million dollars), and China (1 million dollars). It is, of course, far from enough to provide the necessary assistance to North Korea. It is no surprise that few countries are forthcoming to open their wallets to help out a rogue country posing a threat to the international community with nuclear weapons and missiles.

The food crisis has abated thanks to the traditional markets cropping up in North Korea, but it appears that people in periphery villages are still suffering from serious food shortage. The North Korean children emaciated from chronic malnutrition are the very future generation to lead Korea after unification. North Korea has continued to rebuff our proposal to provide humanitarian aid. The contrast is poignant between the smile of the chubby North Korean leader and the gaunt faces of North Korean children.