the last good press for North Korea?

James Daly james.irldaly at
Fri Jul 25 04:40:53 MDT 2003

Peace --the real solution to famine in North Korea

by Christine Ahn July 23, 2003

"I have no respect for a man who starves his own people," declared
President Bush, justifying U.S. military aggression towards North
Korea and inciting an image of Kim Jong Il as an evil dictator
forsaking malnourished children to stockpile nuclear weapons.

But Is Kim Jong Il really starving his people or is the fact that the
U.S. is still technically at war with North Korea driving the
persistence of famine?  July
27th marks the fiftieth anniversary of the temporary armistice between
the U.S. and North Korea, and provides an opportunity for these two
nations to sign a treaty, ending the war and sanctions, the real
culprits driving hunger in North Korea.

Contrary to Bush's assertion, most experts agree that geopolitical and
ecological events led to a one-two punch that resulted in the North
Korean famine in the
1990s.  The first major blow to North Korean food production was the
collapse of the former Soviet Union and the socialist trading bloc,
which eliminated North Korea's major trading partners.  The end of
subsidized oil from the former Soviet Union and China literally halted
the tractors of North Korean farmers.  The second blow-major droughts
and floods that were the worst of the century-destroyed much of the
harvest and forced Pyongyang to seek Western and Japanese aid.

The persistence of famine, however, is due to economic sanctions led
by the U.S. and its refusal to end the
50-year Korean War.  What is scarcely known about North Korea is that
up until the 1980s, North Korea's agricultural and economic growth far
outpaced South Korea.  The World Health Organization and other United
Nations agencies have praised their delivery of basic health services,
noting that North Korean children were far better vaccinated than
American children, and that life expectancy rates in North Korea
surpassed that of South Korea.

Furthermore, only about 20 percent of North Korea's mostly mountainous
land is suitable for agriculture. Before the Korean peninsula was
divided, the north served as Korea's industrial base and the south as
its breadbasket.  Despite these odds, by 1961, North Korea achieved
agricultural self-sufficiency, an amazing feat for a nation that
scarcely a decade before was left in a pile of rubble.

The Korean War claimed four million lives and left North Korean
agriculture bombed to bits.  According to historians, the U.S.
military's mission in the North, called the 'scorched earth policy,'
exhibited unprecedented brutality far worse than in Vietnam.  The U.S.
Air Force's use of napalm destroyed irrigation dams and facilities
that provided 75 percent of North Korea's food production. This very
same act of aggression was considered a war crime when Nazis destroyed
much smaller facilities in Holland.

After North Korea signed the armistice, the North Korean people set
out to rebuild their devastated nation according to the juche
philosophy that promoted self-reliance and national independence.
This inspired two New York Times writers in 1972 to note with
astonishment that this country, the size of Mississippi, had developed
a "well organized and highly industrialized socialist economy, largely
self- sufficient, with a disciplined and productive work force."

Despite their efforts to remain food sovereign, and because of events
beyond their control, North Korea could not sustain the stranglehold
of the United States.  For five decades, the U.S. has pursued military
and economic policies that have held 22 million North Koreans hostage
and threatened them with nuclear annihilation.  These same mad
politics are driving the insane military budgets of both nations,
diverting vital government resources that would improve the welfare of
its people.

If President Bush truly cared about ending the starvation of millions
of North Koreans, he would sign a peace treaty with their government
and end the Korean War that has isolated this country for 50 years.

Christine Ahn coordinates the Economic and Social Human Rights Program
at Food First and is a member of the Korea Solidarity Committee of the
San Francisco Bay Area.

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