Back in 2006, I wrote a blog post on my old website about North Korea in an attempt to put things in some perspective for those of us in North America. We tend to see North Korea as an extremist nation with a crazy leader (both the current Kim Jong Un and his father… and his grandfather I suppose) and that may be true. There are plenty of reasons for North Americans to dislike the North Korean government but I don’t think we really understand what life must be like for the people of North Korea.
With continued war, natural disasters, UN sanctions and a lack of natural resources, North Korean people do not enjoy the same luxuries that we do. I don’t condone the nuclear program in North Korea but I also don’t condone the UN sanctions. Witholding food and aid does nothing but hurt the already struggling people of the country and I really don’t think that sending boatloads of biscuits is the answer to easing tensions.
North Korea is a country that has been at war for the better part of the last 100 years. They have been relatively peaceful with South Korea for decades but officially, the 2 countries are still at war as no peace treaty was ever signed. In the 1990’s North Korea suffered severe famine due to weather and farming practises that are pretty much archaic. It is estimated that as many as 3 million people died during the famines of the 1990’s. Imagine that happening where you live. Imagine your friends and neighbours starving to death and you are watching it happen struggling to just stay alive yourself. Imagine that other countries are trying to force you to abandon technical advances like nuclear power while you are struggling to live from on day to the next.
North Korea relies heavily on foreign aid. The country has been heavily hit by severe storms, mudslides and is prone to natural disasters. In 2006, storms and mudslides resulted in more than 100 people reported dead or missing. More than 10,000 homes were destroyed and at least 9000 families homeless. Imagine the frustration you would feel when the rest of the world wants to shut you out. Imagine the anger you would feel as you are forced to suffer and watch others around you suffer.
Denying aid to North Korea is not helping to bring an end to any political tensions. It’s an attempt to break the spirit of the country and it does nothing but cause ordinary people like you and me to suffer. It forces children to go hungry with no home to go to. Imagine someone doing that to you and your family.
As I said earlier, I certainly don’t condone the missile tests or the production of nuclear weapons but in the world today, it is the countries capable of waging war that are prosperous. The countries with military power can demand and they receive. North Korea has been a have-not country for so long that I imagine they just want to enjoy some of the simple things that we take for granted every day like feeling safe and secure. I know it sounds a little crazy but what if the rest of the world reached out with some kindness and compassion? The last 60 years of war, sanctions and broken promises haven’t done much to make the situation better. Einstein, who was a pretty smart guy, said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Maybe to North Koreans the rest of the world seems insane. For decades we have promised to help North Korea and have backed out on those promises, we have manipulated and lied (read up on the US claims of North Korea moving nuclear material to Lybia in 2003) and yet we somehow think that North Korea is going to abandon nuclear weapon testing and just decide to live peacefully with the rest of the world. The same world that demonstrates time and time again that nations with military power and weapons have a better standard of living. Doesn’t that sound even more insane than starving people wanting to be able to feed their families and have a good life?
What if we tried a completely different approach? Maybe we would see a different result.