News / Asia

Aid Groups Express Concern About North Korea's Harsh Winters

South Korean charities providing aid to North Korea are concerned that the harsh winter may be causing significant deaths in the impoverished communist state. The groups are optimistic, however, they will soon get permission from the South for a meeting in Pyongyang to discuss a full resumption of humanitarian aid.

The leader of an umbrella group for South Korean private aid organizations says unusually severe winter weather is taking its toll on North Koreans.

Park Hyun-seok is secretary general of the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea.

Park says he has learned from various reports and sources, including in the South Korean government that North Koreans are dying from the cold and the food situation is even worse than the hardship experienced in 1995.

Famine in the mid-1990 is believed to have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Since then North Korea has been dependent on foreign food as a result of natural disasters and mismanagement of its economy.

In recent weeks, temperatures have remained below freezing on much of the Korean peninsula.

North Korea’s official news agency has reported that the historic cold is causing hardship for “people’s lives” and could severely hamper spring farming.

United Nations aid agencies began warning several months ago that millions in the country face food shortages, and say that undernourishment in North Korea is rampant. But they have not publicly reported unusual patterns of disease or health conditions this winter.

After military actions by North Korea last year, Seoul cut off all but a minimal trickle of aid for infants and the most vulnerable adults.

The NGO Council, representing 56 aid groups, says it expects next week to get permission from the South Korean government to attend a meeting next month in the North.

Pyongyang last month asked the council for talks in early February on resuming assistance. The authorities there also promised to allow South Korean aid groups to inspect food distribution centers to ensure transparency.

Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo says inspections must be agreed on before Seoul lets aid resume.

She says Pyongyang also needs to demonstrate a responsible attitude for last year’s acts of aggression and promise not to repeat them. If that happens then aid from the South could be resumed at the levels that were in place before May 24, when trade and aid supplies were suspended.

North Korea is blamed for the sinking of a South Korean navy ship last March, and it shelled a South Korean island, killing four people, in November. It denies blame in the ship sinking, and says it fired on the island in response to South Korean military activity.

Council leader Park says Pyongyang’s willingness to allow unprecedented inspections of distribution sites would be significant for other reasons.

Park says it is a symbolic measure through which the humanitarian groups could show the South Korean people and a skeptical international community that aid is being distributed to the right people. He says the resumption of assistance could help re-start official inter-Korean talks.

South Korea, the United States, Japan and the European Union were the leading donors to North Korea for much of the late 1990s and early part of the last decade. But their contributions fell sharply after they discovered that Pyongyang was operating a secret nuclear weapons program.

The international community has imposed numerous sanctions on the reclusive country for its nuclear program, missile testing, arms trading and other illicit activities. That has North Korea dependent on China for its economic survival.

There are no diplomatic ties between the two Koreas, which fought a civil war in the early 1950s. The conflict ended with a truce and no peace treaty has ever been signed.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs