North Koreans Endure Massive Deprivation and Repression
A man-made cataclysm continues to rage in North Korea, where people struggle against violent repression and massive deprivation in a country that is almost entirely sealed-off from the outside world. In the late 1990s, an estimated two to three million people starved, and recent stories from refugees reveal that the food and health situation is still dire. Even though huge amounts of international assistance pour into the country, there is no way of knowing if it reaches those most in need and many suspect that the bulk of aid is simply diverted by the military regime. Economic reforms, introduced in July 2002, have exacerbated problems, resulting in runaway inflation that undermines people's ability to afford basic food items. For many desperate North Koreans, even fleeing the country does not end their anguish. Considered economic immigrants by Chinese authorities, most live in hiding because they fear arrest and forced repatriation to North Korea, where they are subject to imprisonment and brutal treatment. Humanitarian aid workers who try to assist refugees face reprisals from Chinese authorities, who deem such assistance a criminal offense. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has not visited the border region for years even though China is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. While most international interest continues to focus on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, little attention is paid to the intense suffering endured by North Koreans, both inside and outside the country, who have little access to the basic services and security they need to survive.
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) – http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org – is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and exclusion from health care in nearly 70 countries.