Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The North Korean regime has a habit of raiding the UN piggybank

Unfortunately, it is a doomed effort. The North Korean regime has a habit of raiding the UN piggybank. For example, it convinced the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to provide hard currency payments without any safeguards. Those funds ended up lining the dictator Kim Jong-Il’s pocket. At least $20 million was transferred from the UNDP directly to the North Korean regime for so-called development projects. The UNDP enabled North Korea to use UN-affiliated accounts to launder money and to import dual-use technology. As a consequence of this scandal, the UNDP had shut down its North Korea operations, but has since decided to resume them.

The terrible malnutrition that Ban Ki-moon laments is a direct result of the regime’s cruel neglect and mismanagement. It lets its people suffer from severe food shortages and a near-total breakdown in the public health system while it squanders money on nuclear arms and missiles. The UN’s World Health Organization has managed to get some limited rations delivered to less than a third of the neediest people. While the World Health Organization claims it has international staff monitoring distribution of food aid, reports have surfaced that people getting food are giving it back to the government.

As long as this closed regime stays in power, there is little the United Nations can do to really break through and reach the imprisoned population with humanitarian aid, even with the best of intentions. The aid will be squandered by Kim Jong-Il and his henchmen, as it has done before with development assistance. The UN is simply enabling the government to continue to survive.

The back of this regime must be broken by strangling its economy and quarantining entry and exit of ships to and from North Korean ports suspected of carrying nuclear or other military equipment and materials. There is no other way to save its people.

Article Seven of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines various categories of acts that constitute crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery or enforced prostitution, persecution and enforced disappearance of persons. North Korea is guilty of virtually all of these horrendous crimes against its own people, yet nothing is being done to hold its leaders to account.

Even if the International Criminal Court should take some action against the North Korean regime, it will mean nothing. Kim Jong-Il need only look at what is happening with Sudan’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir as an example. The Court issued a warrant for al-Bashir’s arrest more than a year ago on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Not only is al-Bashir still free, but he will be serving yet another term as president. Two top UN officials in Sudan are even planning to attend his inauguration ceremony!

Decisive action against North Korea, beyond what the United Nations is capable of doing, is needed immediately. Will the world’s democracies finally have the courage it takes to put this aggressive dictatorship in its place once and for all? So far, it does not look promising.

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