The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion U.S. humanitarian aid should come with concessions from Pyongyang

Men plow fields near Pyongyang, North Korea, in July 2017.
Men plow fields near Pyongyang, North Korea, in July 2017. (Wong Maye-E/Associated Press)
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Any large-scale resumption of U.S. humanitarian aid to North Korea [“U.S. policy could worsen N. Korea food crisis, experts fear,” May 9] should be subject to at least two conditions.

First, North Korea must invest substantial resources of its own in the food and health-care needs of its population so that foreign aid supplements, not replaces, North Korea’s responsibility. Second, North Korea must lift its onerous restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid.

U.N. officials have acknowledged that although foreign aid workers have operated in North Korea for more than 20 years, they still do not have full and unimpeded access to those in need and unencumbered freedom of movement, as well as the ability to conduct independent data collection and to assure that aid always reaches the most vulnerable. They also cannot effectively monitor the aid they provide. As co-chair emeritus of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, I know that a door into North Korea is important, and aid to the hungry and sick essential. But the limitations that aid workers face undermine these goals and must be a major part of donor government concerns.

Roberta Cohen, Washington