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The tin-cup tyranny

"The tin-cup tyranny" Continued...

Issue: "Washington Gets One Right," Dec. 6, 1997

Similarly, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod World Relief's Elaine Richter, in North Korea this month, reports widespread use of bark, corn cobs, and "other forms of fiber" is supplementing many diets.

Mr. Natsios, who was in North Korea last summer, said there are problems other than the food shortage. "The electrical system has collapsed," he told WORLD. Unheated homes, combined with winter's cold and damp, are leading to an increase in tuberculosis.

All-around shortages point to problems other than natural disasters. Two years of flooding, followed by drought, then tidal waves from August's Typhoon Winnie are the cited causes of famine. None of the effects of natural pestilence, however, are visible just to the north in rural China, nor a stone's throw to the south in Seoul.

Even before the floods, North Korea endured six straight years of negative economic growth, shrinking its economy by 30 percent. "Generous economic help for North Korea should be forthcoming to the degree it reduces its military threat and opens its economy," write Korean experts Robert Manning and James Przystup. "Pyongyang should be offered the choice of keeping its gun or its tin cup. But to allow it to have both is sheer folly."

Relief agencies will structure aid for the winter based on a report due out this week from the UN World Food Program. The report will detail the size of the harvest just completed, allowing agencies to pinpoint when North Korea's food supply will wane. Based on the numbers, the United Nations will issue an appeal to donor nations, as it did last year, for a coordinated relief effort next year. Last year U.S. taxpayers contributed $8 million in food aid, making North Korea-in spite of an economic embargo-the third largest recipient of U.S. aid in Asia.

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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