Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

The North Korean Crisis: A Humanitarian Perspective

North Korean Nuclear Reactor Construction Site (Podknox/Flickr)

North Korean Nuclear Reactor Construction Site (Podknox/Flickr)

First, the United States wants to assure that, whatever happens internally in North Korea, the artillery Pyongyang has emplaced within range of Seoul is never fired in anger.

Second, it wants to stop the North from nuclear arming.

Third, it wants to prevent the North from developing, testing, deploying and selling any more ballistic missiles.

Fourth, it wants a ban on biological and chemical weapons.

Fifth, it seeks reconciliation between the two Koreas.

The only way to achieve these aims is to test whether North Korea is willing to cooperate with the United States. Coercion will not work; it will only ensure that North Korea deploys more artillery near the demilitarized zone, seeks more aggressively to acquire nuclear arms, and tests, deploys and sells more missiles. It will further alienate allies South Korea and Japan and antagonize China.

The crime-and-punishment approach has never worked before with North Korea and there is no reason to believe it will work now. It will only impede efforts to ease the humanitarian crisis in North Korea. Whenever tensions have risen in the past, both the United States and the D.P.R.K. have made it more difficult for humanitarian agencies and NGOs to do their work there.

CHARLES ARMSTRONG
Thank you very much Lee, as always, for your astute and provocative (and I say that in a positive sense) analysis and prognosis of the situation. Next, Peter Hayes, Executive Director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development joins us by videoconference from Berkeley, California.

Peter Hays is perhaps the foremost specialist in issues of energy and security in Northeast Asia in general and North Korea in particular, and will, I'm sure, give us some very significant first-hand observations of the current situation. Thank you very much Lee, as always, for your astute and provocative (and I say that in a positive sense) analysis and prognosis of the situation. Next, Peter Hayes, Executive Director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development joins us by videoconference from Berkeley, California.

PETER HAYES
Thank you Charles. Thank you. It's always a pleasure to follow a tour-de-force like Lee, ranging over the geopolitical landscape. What I'm going to do is actually not addresses those kinds of issues, but really try and come down to the ground. I'm going to actually pick up on his very last comment about how the insecurities that afflict Korea, and in particular, these kinds of confrontations that we're living through at the moment impede humanitarian activities and development on the ground.

I'm going to begin by relating a small anecdote. As many of you know, our tiny Berkeley based non-profit organization built and still operates a wind turbine system in a small village on the west coast of North Korea called Unhari which powers the village households, the clinic, the nursery with very small young children. We have been working in this village since 1998, so we have had a presence in that village, we've been back quite a few times to the village, we're planning to go back again in the fall before the ground freezes, and so we have had a very intimate - increasingly intimate - relationship with this village and its inhabitants for, what, nearly five years. And this includes an energy and use survey in the village, and in order to do that we actually had to go into, I think, eighty households - actually inside the houses - we had to measure the houses, we had to measure all the in-use equipment, the iron, look at the stove, the cooking equipment, the refrigerator if there was one, a fan, the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, if there was one. And we turned it on and actually measured the power consumption of each unit. And then there was an extensive social and demographic survey of the village using World Bank standard survey instruments and methodologies because we had premised this joint project with our North Korean counterparts as being done at the standards of international norms and expectations. There was no point in this project being a [potemkin] project. We wanted to do a real development project that would meet World Bank standards and then would put in place a capacity in North Korea to engage bilateral and multilateral donors once the ice began to break up at the geopolitical level.