An Appeal for Humanitarian Relief for North Korea

March 12th, 2019 - by Simone Chun

Simone Chun / Korea Peace Network & Korean Collaboration

An Appeal for Humanitarian Relief for our Brothers and Sisters in North Korea!
Sanctions target the DPRK’s civilian economy and harm the most vulnerable members of its population. 

Simone Chun / Korea Peace Network and Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea

(March 3, 2019) — Dear Friends–an update and appeal for humanitarian relief for our brothers and sisters in North Korea!

In Hanoi, North Korean wanted relief from 5 UN Security Council resolutions from 2016 – 17, which they view as “partial sanctions relief”, which “hamper the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people.” 

The United States said No to North Korea’s appeal on behalf of innocent people, especially working families, women, children, the poor, sick and elderly, who suffer from sanctions and the 70 years of brutal and cruel economic embargo. 

Let us renew our commitment: hope and courage!

FACTS: Sanctions put innocent North Korean civilians at risk. Sanctions target the DPRK’s civilian economy and harm the most vulnerable members of its population.  In direct contravention of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, these sanctions punish DPRK civilians for the actions of their government. 

  • Since the first North Korean nuclear test in 2006, the UN Security Council has augmented the unilateral US sanctions against  the DPRK with nearly a dozen draconian resolutions of its own.  
  • These sanctions have taken a significant humanitarian toll on the North Korean people, with US policies in particular restricting the work of NGOs, international humanitarian agencies, and aid groups that provide a lifeline for some 13 million vulnerable North Koreans. 
  • In direct contravention of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, these sanctions punish DPRK civilians for the actions of their government.
  • The current sanctions regime has the greatest impact on the poorest and most: working-class families, particularly children and seniors living in remote areas with restricted access to medical supplies, food, and fuel for cooking and heating.
  • Additionally, bans on exports and on the dispatch of workers abroad impact the ability of ordinary DPRK citizens to support their livelihood. Export restrictions are harming the ability of workers to meet the basic needs of their families, and the ban on textile exports in particular is exerting a disproportionate effect on female employment, which represents the majority of the labor force in that sector. Sanctions on the fishing, garment and coal industries, coupled with South Korea’s decision to close a joint factory complex employing more than 50,000 North Koreans, will deprive many people of income in an increasingly market-based economy. Measures aimed at restricting the DPRK’s petroleum import risk further negative humanitarian impact.
  • In the case of the DPRK, sanctions are raising prices on staple goods, which adversely affects the 41% of the North Korean population that is undernourished–a subsection of the 70% who are vulnerable to food insecurity. Additionally, sanctions particularly increase food insecurity and malnutrition among children.  According to a 2018 UNICEF report, 200,000 North Korean children already suffer from acute malnutrition, and sanctions put 60,000 of these vulnerable children at risk of starvation due to the interruption of aid. A recent UN News article reiterated the current risk to North Korean children, stating that “amidst political tensions, chronic food insecurity, early childhood malnutrition and nutrition insecurity are widespread in DPRK.”  
  • Sanctions have also interfered with the timely delivery of medical equipment, life-saving drugs, and childhood inoculations, some of which have been delayed for months despite completion of the onerous bureaucratic hurdles affirming their approval for export. Blocked items include anesthetic and surgical supplies, as well as supplies needed to treat some 1,500 critically ill tuberculosis patients.

Related Articles

1. Despite Collapse of Trump-Kim Summit, Diplomacy Is Still the Only Path. (Truthout)

While it would have been unrealistic to expect a comprehensive, final deal in Hanoi, hopes were raised for concrete progress toward that goal.  As talks continue, it is worth remembering that while an end to economic sanctions, a permanent end to the Korean War, a peace agreement and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would rightly benefit Koreans, all of these steps are also in the best interests of U.S., regional and global security.  

Regardless of understandable concerns about the harmful policies and actions of both President Trump and Chairman in other realms, Americans of all political stripes and their representatives in Congress support the continued pursuit of peace through diplomacy.  Thankfully, Rep. Ro Khana (D-California), along with 18 original cosponsors, just introduced legislation articulating support for the nascent peace process and offering a common-sense vision for progress in negotiations. Congress is right to get involved in support of a productive and thoughtful diplomatic process.  

A sustainable peace will require active participation of a broader circle of champions and cheerleaders.  As the great peace advocate A.J. Muste observed, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” 

2. E. Tammy Kim. The Failed Summit Isn’t So Funny. Opinion. (The New York Times)

The anticlimax in Hanoi arrived at a poignant time. Friday was the 100th anniversary of the March 1 Movement, a key uprising in Korea’s struggle against imperial Japan and the first exercise of a uniquely Korean identity, according to the historian Suzy Kim. On March 1, 1919, a cheering crowd of some 5,000 intellectuals, activists, students, families and workers gathered in Seoul’s Pagoda Park cheering, “Mansei!” (“Long Live Korea!”) 

The leaders read a statement asserting Korea’s independence from Japan, inspired by President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points: “We hereby declare that Korea is an independent state and that Koreans are a self-governing people.”

Mass demonstrations were held across the Korean Peninsula and in Manchuria and the United States, and a provisional government was established in Shanghai, a center of the resistance. Yet Korea would have to wait until the end of World War II to gain its independence, only to be promptly divided into North and South.

3. The Promise in This Week’s `Failed’ Trump-Kim Talks. Now is the time to bring in the one person capable of putting the talks back on track: Moon Jae-in  (The American Conservative)

Below, I would offer to Moon a path that could transform U.S.-North Korea relations:

—The ending of the Korean War via a peace declaration;

—The opening of liaison offices to ensure any crisis can be headed off by nearly instant communication;

—Joint U.S.-North Korea excavation teams working in the North to bring back to both nations the fallen heroes of the Korean War;

—A slow and steady march towards reducing the nuclear threat that each nation possesses on the other—and not just demanding North Korea surrender its nukes before we decide to do anything.

4. Address by President Moon Jae-in on 100th March First Independence Movement Day (#MoonMiracle 3.1)

The protagonists of the March First Independence Movement were ordinary people such as laborers, farmers, women, soldiers, rickshaw pullers, gisaeng, butchers, serfs, street merchants, students and monks. These people also participated in a nationwide campaign to repay the national debt to Japan by quitting smoking to save, donating ornamental hairpins and rings made of gold and silver, and even selling locks of hair. One hundred years ago today, there was no South and North Korea….

The spring of peace that arrived on the Korean Peninsula was not ushered in by someone else. It is an outcome accomplished by ourselves – by the power of the people…. Unification need not be far away. Achieving a unity of mind while acknowledging differences and establishing mutually beneficial relations – this is exactly what unification is all about…. The coming 100 years will differ from the past in quality. We will push ahead with a bold transition toward a new Korean Peninsula regime and prepare for unification.