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2006/07 Humanitarian News

This news was posted to the NCNK website in 2006 and 2007.  For news on the Summer/Fall 2007 flooding, see http://www.ncnk.org/resources/publications/2007_Flood_News.doc/file_view

ROK Resumes Humanitarian Assistance


At a briefing on June 26, ROK Minister of Unification Lee Jae-Joung announced South Korean plans to provide the DPRK with a loan of 400,000 MT of rice. The first shipment of 3,000 MT is scheduled to leave the ROK's Gunsan Port for the DPRK's Nampo Port on June 30. According to Minister Lee, the DPRK requested the loan during the 21 Inter-Korean Ministerial Talks.

Preliminary Audit of UNDP Programs Released


"Report of the Board of Auditors on the Special audit requested by the ACABQ into the activities of UNDP, UNFPA, UNOPS and UNICEF in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK"), released May 31, 2007, raises concerns about program site visits and hiring and payment procedures for North Koreans working with UN programs. The UNDP responded the following day with its UNDP Management Response, raising questions about several audit findings. Addressing a question outside the official scope of the audit but perhaps implied by UNBOA comments that in previous reports it had raised "related observations" regarding human resources managment, cash management, procurement and project management, the UNDP response emphasizes that "Based on the UNBOA initial review, there is no evidence that funds have been misused; the monitoring reports confirm that funds were used for the purposes intended and the results achieved."

Australia Announces USD 3.3 Million/Humanitarian Assistance to DPRK

Austalia has announced four million dollars ($3.3 million in US dollars, according to Radio Australia) in humanitarian assistance to the DPRK. The aid will be provided through a combination of UN agencies and the International Red Cross. According to the report, a mid-March delegation to the DPRK of senior Australian officials found that "Australia's previous humanitarian assistance [has] been very effective, well-targeted and well-delivered."

UNDP Backgrounder and FAQ

The UNDP has issued a backgrounder and FAQ (April 12, 2007) on its program in the DPRK in which they address some of the rumors circulating in the press, which they deem inaccurate. For example, they state that "With minor exceptions such as petty cash (transactions less than 40 Euros) UNDP conducted its business in DPRK via check and bank transfer rather than in cash" and that of the approximately $47.5 million spent between 1997 and 2007, $24.5 was actually spent inside the DPRK. The 2004 audit of UNDP operations in the DPRK found financial management of the program to be satisfactory, and the UNDP has obtained reciepts and documentation for program expenses. They also state that "UNDP's direct payment of certain local expenses in Euros (as opposed to local Korean Won) over the past three years did not increase the amount of hard currency flowing into DPRK, as UNDP would have had to use Euros to purchase Won in order to pay directly in the local currency."

ROK-Red Cross Agreement on Humanitarian Programs

The ROK Ministry of Unification signed an MOU with the Red Cross on January 16, 2007 transferring responsibility to the Red Cross for humanitarian programs such as separated-family meetings, flood relief and fertilizer shipments. As the Red Cross already administers some of these projects, the transfer is considered a symbolic step towards Minister Lee Jae-joung's commitment to divorce aid from politics. English Chosun, reporting on a January 9 Yonhap interview with Minister Lee, quoted the minister as saying: "I hope that we can come up with a framework to offer systematic humanitarian aid (to the North) so we can continue to do it whatever political situation we face."

DPRK says no Food Crisis

The Japanese paper Chosun Sinbo ran an article saying there is no food crisis in the DPRK, according to a January 3 Reuters article (No Food Crisis in North Korea Despite Floods: Paper). The article quotes DPRK Minister of Agriculture Kim Kyong-Il as saying that "It is not a satisfactory production level relative to our goal, but the problem of feeding the people is in no way at a serious level."

South Korea Announces it's too Early to Resume Aid


Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung named several preconditions to resumption of ROK assistance to the DPRK, including progress in the six party talks and changes in public sentiment ("Still too early to resume aid to North Korea:Unification Minister, December 28, 2006). The South Korean National Assembly has voted to decrease the amount of funding available for inter-Korean projects from 650 billion won to 500 billion won.

UNICEF and WFP Warn of Impending Humanitarian Crisis

At a December 22 briefing WFP and UNICEF warned that flooding which "decimated" North Korean crops and a decline in donations have created a "critical" situation. The WFP has identified 1.9 million people in need but it has received just 15% of its appeal, or enough for 70,000 thousand. UNICEF has received less than half of its appeal. Assistance to mothers and children has already been cut, and the situation is expected to worsen over the winter unless more resources are committed.

Sanctions May Worsen Humanitarian Situation


Soon after the October 2006 nuclear test, Charles Whelan reported that "economic sanctions could contribute to a new humanitarian crisis" (Aid Groups Fear Sanctions will hurt NKs Poor, not Regime.) Paul Eckert ("North Korea's Nuclear Row Sharpens Humanitarian Fears") discusses declining assistance from the PRC. UNICEF's June 2006 report provides an 84 page assesment of the humanitarian situation inside the DPRK before the July missile tests.