Should the world let North Korea starve?

North Korea is begging foreign governments for food. But should we really give aid to a dangerous, nuclear-armed rogue state?

Though North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il recently threw himself a relatively lavish birthday party, his country is forced to beg for food aid.
(Image credit: Corbis)

In a highly unusual move, North Korea has instructed its embassies in 40 countries to beg for food aid. A severe winter has apparently left the secretive country far short of its food needs, and international aid organizations can't bridge the gap. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is known to spend lavishly on himself, not to mention heavily on weapons and nuclear research. Should the international community bail him out? (Watch a Euronews report about the situation)

This crisis could be the end of Kim: Koreans may starve without aid, but sitting this one out may be the right call, says Christopher Hill in Project Syndicate. Perhaps the "short-term cost in human lives is worth the potential long-term benefits" of a "famine-induced collapse" of Kim's regime. Several experts believe this shortage "could prove too much" for a government that "has invested almost nothing" in irrigation and crop production but found a way to pay for "a modern, high-tech uranium-enrichment facility."

"Food for thought in North Korea"

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We can't let innocent Koreans die: There's good reason to question Kim's motives and priorities, says The [South] Korea Times in an editorial. But sending food aid is the only humane response to starving neighbors. It's the smart one, too, "winning the hearts of numerous" future countrymen and jump-starting stalled talks. Refusing to share our rice surplus would just leave "historically incurable scars on both sides" (see England and post-famine Ireland).

"Hunger in North"

North Korea isn't the only starving nation: The many "valid reasons to consider charity" also apply to other countries, some needier and more deserving than the "dreadfully ruled" North Korea, says Bradley K. Martin in Global Post. It's a wrenching choice to let anyone starve, but in Kim's tragic kingdom, officials would siphon off much of the donated food, and Kim still "has the effrontery to use the aid, judo-style, as a political weapon" against the donors. We can do better.

"Does North Korea deserve aid?"

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