Archive for February, 2004

Anne Frank read in the DPRK

Thursday, February 26th, 2004

Accodring to CBS

Dutch Television reporter Miriam Bartelsman interviewed young “Pyongyang-ites” who were reading the diary of Anne Frank in School.

“As long as the war-monger Bush and the Nazi Americans live, who are worse than Hitler’s fascists world peace will be impossible to achieve.”

“The Americans love war…its part of their nature”

“As long as there are American Nazis, there will be secret places where innocent people are murdered.  Places like that exist in America.”

Anne Franks’ cousin, Buddy Elias, was not amused.



Food Storages at WFP and DPRK

Saturday, February 14th, 2004

According to the Washington Post:

A severe food shortage has crippled the U.N. feeding program that sustains North Korea’s most vulnerable and undernourished people, according to Masood Hyder, the U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator and World Food Program representative in Pyongyang.

He said his organization can now feed fewer than 100,000 of the 6.5 million people it normally does, many of them kindergarten-age children and pregnant women who cannot get what they need to stay healthy from the country’s distribution system.

The food shortages are likely to hang in the air as North Korean, U.S., South Korean, Chinese, Russian and Japanese diplomats gather in Beijing Feb. 25 to discuss North Korea’s incipient nuclear weapons program and respond to its demand for formal security guarantees and more economic aid.

Japan, for instance, used to provide 300,000 tons of food a year but has stopped shipments because of disagreement with Pyongyang over Japanese citizens abducted and taken to North Korea for training as spies in the 1970s and 1980s, the diplomat said.

South Korea and China run government-to-government aid programs for North Korea, outside the World Food Program, but the level of their current shipments is not known. Masood estimated that such aid is roughly equal to the multilateral aid administered by the U.N. agency for the neediest people.

The last shipment arrived in North Korea in September, when South Korea sent a boatload of corn, Masood said. The next shipment, 38,000 tons of corn from the United States, is due at the end of March, he added. The six-month break has dried up a supply chain crucial for more than a fourth of North Korea’s 23 million people, particularly those not given the benefits of the million-strong military and government employees.

“That means people are without food at the worst time, in the dead of winter,” Masood said. “A little slippage in deliveries, and it’s a tragedy.”

The shortages are not expected to produce widespread starvation of the kind that devastated parts of North Korea in the mid-1990s, according to U.N., Japanese and other Asian officials. But Masood predicted they will intensify and spread malnutrition. Food shortages already produce stunted growth in four out of 10 North Korean students and allow pregnant women to gain only half of the 22 pounds they are expected to gain to give birth to healthy babies.

This winter’s shortage is likely to reverse for many people the progress made since the disaster a decade ago.

Some orphanages have started serving two meals a day instead of three because of the shortages, Masood said. Although North Koreans traditionally eat rice as their staple, the U.N. program provides mainly wheat, corn and edible plant seeds, which are used to make bread or gruel.

Normal deliveries of such grains take about three months from the time a government decides to donate to the food’s arrival in North Korea and its distribution to areas where people are going hungry. The World Food Program has asked for 485,000 tons this year but has received less than a third of that in pledges — and a small fraction in deliveries.

Masood said his main hope is that food shipments headed elsewhere could be rerouted to North Korea or that the North Korean government could be persuaded to dip into its strategic reserves of rice and other food.

“Statistically, they have food,” the Asian diplomat said. “It depends on how quickly the North Korean government diverts food from some other groups.”

Reluctance to help North Korea this winter stems in part from donor governments’ traditional end-of-year budget pinches. But it also reflects frustration over Kim’s refusal to abandon the country’s nuclear program and unwillingness to allow U.N. or other outside inspectors to fully monitor what happens to the aid.

The secrecy has caused some donor governments to suspect that the food aid might be diverted to the military or government employees. Monitoring is “less than effective” because of the restrictions, Masood acknowledged. But he expressed skepticism that U.N. food was ending up in army or government cupboards because, he said, officials have first call on government-to-government aid and North Korea’s own rice harvest.

Another problem is that North Korean food shortages have become chronic over the last decade so they no longer cause alarm. As long as Kim’s government clings to a system unable to produce enough food, the Asian diplomat said, people wonder why their tax money should be spent to make up the difference.



North Korean Food Aid

Monday, February 9th, 2004

According to the BBC:

More than six million North Koreans will go without emergency food aid until April, says the UN World Food Programme (WFP).  It has run out of food.

For the next two months food rations will only be given to 100,000 people – mostly child-bearing women and children in hospitals and orphanages. A quarter of the population who normally receive food aid will have to survive winter without normal rations.

Food shortages have plagued North Korea for at least nine years, after floods, economic mismanagement and the consequences of the break-up of chief donor the USSR combined to precipitate the crisis.

WFP Pyongyang representative Masood Hyder said the agency was scraping the bottom of the barrel. “If you’re going to give, please give early,” was Mr Hyder’s message to donor countries. He said the crisis had come at the “wrong time”, when harvest stocks were already depleted and recent economic reforms had forced up prices on farmers’ markets.

Mr Hyder blamed the funding shortfall on an unfavourable political context – a reference perhaps to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, says the BBC’s Louisa Lim in Beijing – and donor fatigue with a country which has received food aid for nine years.

He responded to the charge that assistance from the WFP was contributing to a dependence on aid in North Korea. “Whenever humanitarian action is protracted these kinds of worries arise: ‘Are we the solution or have we become part of the problem?'” he told the BBC World Service’s World Today programme. “I think we’ve got to be quite robust in confronting these issues – so long as there are people in need … there is a strong case for the WFP to assist.”

The WFP representative said the current pattern of stop-go had begun in September 2002.  The worst until now had been an inability to feed half the people on the WFP’s books. “Now we’re talking of a total cutback,” Mr Hyder said. “It’s graver, with deeper consequences.”

“Right now we are in the situation where we will be unable to feed all 6.5million, perhaps we will be able to feed just under 100,000 in February and March, but the vast majority we will not be able to help,” he said.

Mr Hyder described the consequences as a real increase in suffering and malnourishment. “People are not really expected to die because of the short-term deprivations,” he said.  “People in fragile and recovering health… would then again suffer a setback.”

Underweight pregnant mothers were more likely to give birth to poorly developed babies, and many elderly people would be unable to buy food at the markets.

Though the US, Russia and other countries had pledged thousands of tonnes of grain and other food, the next shipments of aid will only arrive in North Korea in April. The WFP says it will face another crisis from June onwards.

From another article in the BBC:

The US gave 40,000 tonnes of food earlier in the year but said that no decision had been made on whether to send an additional 60,000 tonnes.

The WFP wants another $171 to refume the aid.



Two energy plans for North Korea

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004

From the New York Times:

North Korea is desperately short of energy, and agreed in 1994 to halt its nuclear weapons program in exchange for help from its capitalist neighbors and the United States in building nuclear power plants. But work at the site was halted on Dec. 1 because the United States said North Korea had violated the 1994 agreement by pursuing nuclear weapons anyway. On Friday, the State Department said the civilian nuclear power program had “no future.” In retaliation, North Korea is holding hostage the construction equipment at the site belonging to contractors from South Korea, which has sunk almost $1 billion into the project.

With the civilian nuclear power program off the table, North Korea needs another plan for expanding its energy supply, and its neighbors need a way to break the diplomatic stalemate. On Monday, at a regional energy forum here, energy executives from Russia and the United States outlined two proposals. Both ideas – a 235-mile electric power line from Vladivostok and a 1,500-mile natural gas pipeline from Sakhalin – highlight Russia’s future as an energy exporter to Northeast Asia. Just as Canadian power fuels much of the United States, so the hydroelectric resources of the Russian Far East seem destined to flow south to China, Japan and the Koreas.

“Everyone wants a nonnuclear solution” to North Korea’s energy proablem, said John B. Fetter, an American consultant who traveled here from Philadelphia to present the $3 billion natural gas pipeline project proposed by the KoRus Gas Company, a consortium of American, Russian and South Korean owners.

The project calls for a pipe to be laid from the vast gas deposits off Sakhalin Island, southwest through Russian territory to North Korea and, probably, on to Seoul, South Korea’s capital, as well. Mr. Fetter said gas could flow through it as soon as 2008.

By then, it is hoped, at least one reliable customer for the gas will have emerged in North Korea, a nation notorious for rewriting rules after the fact and for failing to pay its bills. If the pipeline is built all the way through to South Korea, it would reach a nation of 47 million whose appetite for energy is growing rapidly. Oil consumption has quadrupled since 1980, and South Korea is now the world’s fourth- largest oil importer, after the United States, Japan and China. Analysts expect demand for gas to increase by 50 percent in the next 10 years.

For North Korea, though, an electric transmission line promises faster, cheaper relief.

For just $180 million or so, a 500-kilovolt line could be built in four years, according to Victor N. Minakov, general director of Vostokenergo, a subsidiary of Russia’s state electric utility, United Energy Systems.

The timetables for both projects are ambitious, and financing them could pose problems, industry experts said. But both projects reflect the future importance of the Russian Far East as an energy supplier to Asia, according to Alexei M. Mastepanov, deputy director of Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly.

North Korea’s energy needs are critical. It depended for decades on tankers full of oil delivered at subsidized “friendship prices” by China and Russia, but both its patrons began charging market prices in the early 1990’s, and North Korea has yet to recover from the blow.

Shortages of energy crippled North Korea’s industry, and much of the country regressed to a 19th-century existence of candlelight and wood stoves. In rural areas, many trucks are run with gas generators fueled by wood or charcoal, as in Europe during World War II when gasoline was scarce.

North Korean officials support both the gas-pipeline proposal and the power line proposal, but have no money to pay for them, according to people attending the conference who had recently been to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.