The people of North Korea are in a desperate plight. How best to help them is a matter of dispute. Some aid agencies, like Oxfam and Medecins Sans Frontieres, have pulled out of the country – basically because they see the government as the main problem.
While I don’t disagree with that, I also believe the humanitarian needs of the innocent must not go ignored. The UN World Food Programme, Unicef et al all have appeals out for North Korea which at present are seriously underfunded. By all means give to these: see www.unicef.org, www.wfp.org, et al. (For keeping track of these issues, see www.reliefweb.org: click on Complex Emergencies (top left), then on DPR Korea.)
Two charities which I would especially recommend are the Eugene Bell Foundation (http://www.eugenebell.org/english/index.htm) and Christian Friends of Korea (http://www.cfk.org“). Both work in the health field, especially tuberculosis. This has a special resonance for me: my late father, Dr Aylmer Foster-Carter, was a TB expert who for many years ran the country outpost of the Brompton Hospital in London.
Yet I see no contradiction in also supporting those striving for human and other rights in North Korea. Two good sites in this area are www.chosunjournal.com: (see the list of organizations halfway down on the right side) and www.ncafe.com/northkorea: a new and very comprehensive site, if rather full and not for the faint of heart.
Of course, these are matters of individual choice. For me, making my living writing about Korea, it’s uncomfortable that – news values being what they are – I do well for work when the land I love is in trouble, as now. The least I can do is give a little back.
Anyway, no one ever asked to be ruled by Kim Jong-il. Hungry children are the future human capital of a reunified Korea. And they’re children, for crying out loud. Please ponder this, and give what you can where you think it may do most good. Thank you.