US Still Cares Amid DPRK’s Hardheadedness
In spite of North Korea’s infamous nuclear proliferation issue and human rights violations in the country, the United States of America expressed concern about the well-being of the North Korean people.
In his remarks in Washington DC, US Special Envoy Robert R. King for North Korea said the US government is seeking to alleviate the humanitarian problems in North Korea and also to end the egregious human rights violations occurring in the country.
“The American people have repeatedly demonstrated that we are compassionate and that we care about the well-being of others.” – Mr. King
US Cares About DPRK People
According to Mr. King, the United States has been at the forefront of international humanitarian efforts in aid to North Korea for decades already.
He stated that between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in aid, both in the form of food and heavy fuel oil, making the US one of the leading contributors of assistance to the DPRK. However, Mr. King explained that the United States and UN agencies have struggled with North Korean authorities over the lack of transparency and freedom to monitor the distribution of food and other humanitarian assistance.
In other instances, in 2008, the U.S. resumed a food assistance program for the North Korean People, working with American NGOs and the UN’s World Food Programme. Still, there were difficulties in monitoring the aid distribution. And one more thing, by 2009 North Korea unilaterally terminated US assistance program.
Problems met in Engaging with the DPRK
Aside from the difficulties in monitoring the incoming aid to DPRK, it was admitted that it is very difficult for the US government to provide aid to the DPRK.
Known for its restrictive government, it makes for US very difficult for the U.S. government to engage directly with North Korea, even when dealing with the issue of humanitarian aid.
In addition, North Korea’s leaders are known to be guilty of “knowingly causing prolonged starvation” and are responsible for the death by starvation of hundreds of thousands of its own people.
Mr. King highlighted that whenever US undertakes an assistance program, regardless of the country in which we operate, by law the US government is required to monitor aid distribution to ensure that assistance reaches the most vulnerable populations.
“This is the key element that has made it difficult to continue our assistance to North Korea.” – Mr. King
However, the DPRK has not requested humanitarian aid from the United States since 2011, and in return the US does not have any plans to provide such assistance.
US Supports NGO As Gateway To Help North Korea
Despite the effort of the US government to help DPRK, still the US recognized the necessity of food, medical, technical, and educational aid for the North Korean people. The US has found a way to indirectly help North Korea by supporting NGOs that are directly connected to the country.
According to Mr. King, NGOs are able to engage with North Korea under different circumstances. Whereas North Korea has set up road blocks to government-to-government engagement, it has demonstrated a willingness to work directly with NGOs.
NGOs Able To Do Things The US Government Cannot Do
According to Mr. King, the US admires and encourages NGOs’ efforts to provide much needed aid to the people of North Korea.
“To the extent that we can be helpful, we seek to support NGO efforts.” – Mr. King
The United States has long made clear to North Korea that they are open to improved relations if it is willing to take concrete actions to live up to its international obligations and commitments.
The US also believed direct people-to-people contact, which occurs through the provision of humanitarian aid, such as that provided by private organizations, can have a positive long term impact on advancing change in the country.
“As such, we support efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the people of North Korea.” – Mr. King
US Concerned About Widespread Human Rights Violations In DPRK
Mr. King reiterated that the US remains gravely concerned about the ongoing systematic and widespread human rights violations in the DPRK and about the well-being of the North Korean people, who bear the brunt of their government’s decision to perpetuate its self-impoverishing policies.
He stressed that addressing these human rights abuses in North Korea remains an essential component of U.S. policy.
The US called on North Korea to honor its international obligations and agreements and to allow the international humanitarian assistance groups and independent monitors unfettered access to all areas of the country to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches its intended recipients.
US Still Concerned The Welfare of North Korea’s 25 Million People
While denuclearization remains an essential focus of U.S. policy, so, too, does the welfare of North Korea’s nearly 25 million people, the vast majority of whom bear the brunt of their government’s decision to perpetuate an unsustainable, self-impoverishing military-first policy.
One in three North Korean children is chronically malnourished, according to a 2009 UNICEF estimate.
An elaborate network of political prison camps in the country is reportedly estimated to contain 100,000-200,000 inmates, who are subjected to forced labor, torture, and starvation.
Even outside this prison-camp system, the North Korean government dictates nearly all aspects of people’s lives through a highly structured social classification system called “songbun,” which it uses to divide North Korea’s population into categories. This system, in turn, determines access to education and health care, employment opportunities, place of residence, and marriage prospects.
The US is working with international and non-governmental organizations to improve the situation on the ground for the North Korean people, including by supporting the flow of independent information into the DPRK.