Recent actions by North Korea, including its shelling of a South Korean island, have further fueled debate on whether the latter should continue giving humanitarian aid to its reclusive neighbor. A former South Korean foreign minister says South Korea should assist North Korea while keeping sight of the limitations of its aid policy.
“Aid to North Korea must be provided considering both the positive and indirect effects they will have on North Korean society,” Han Seung-joo, who served as foreign minister from 1993 to 1994, writes in an opinion piece published in the Chosun Ilbo.
He adds: “If aid to North Korea is designed to help the people of the North and not the regime, a significant portion of the dilemma surrounding provocations by Pyongyang can be resolved.”
Han identifies four benefits of providing humanitarian aid to South Korea:
Help prevent starvation among North Korean citizens and help improve medical services there.
Help North Koreans overcome pain and suffering from division by supporting civilian exchanges and family reunions.
Give North Korean civilians “hope for the future.”
Reduce North Korea’s dependence on Russia and China.
Han also argues that by taking a more “active approach” in offering humanitarian aid to North Korea, the South Korean government can prevent the North from using lack of support from the South as an excuse to beef up its military. At the same time, Han stresses South Korea should prevent the shipment of material that North Korea could use for military purposes.
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