North Korea: A Different Perspective
February 29, 2012
The succession drama following the death of Kim Jong Il in December has pushed North Korea back onto the center stage of media attention, but this public drama has obscured other more significant events in the reclusive state. Another food crisis has spread across the country over the past two years; though not as serious as the famine of the 1990’s that killed as many as 2.5 million people. People are dying, but we do not know how many because of limited access. The crisis grew out of a poor harvest in 2010 and Pyongyang’s disastrous currency manipulation scheme announced in December 2009 which wiped out people’s savings they had kept to protect themselves against another food crisis. In December 2011 the United States government pledged 240,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid towards the UN appeal at the same time the US Special Envoy to North Korea, Steve Bosworth, announced that the US would resume six party nuclear talks, and acknowledged that the food aid offer would serve to demonstrate to the North Koreans “that they are getting something in return for the freeze in their nuclear activities.” His comments connecting the nuclear issue with the food aid pledge resurrected the old debate over the connection of humanitarian assistance and nuclear proliferation.