| The Lunar New Year`s Day is the best holiday for children. There are many good memories thanks to New Year`s cash gifts from parents and relatives, traditional dresses, hot rice cake soups and fun time with relatives. North Korea, which had long observed January 1 on the solar calendar, embraced the Lunar New Year`s Day as national holiday in 2003. But to underprivileged people, the Lunar New Year`s Day is a time of loneliness. On the upcoming Lunar New Year`s Day, we hope that South Koreans think about North Korea children in addition to unprivileged people in the South. Young North Korean defectors who used to be "kkotjebi," or homeless North Korean beggar children, remember how they were unwelcome guests on Lunar New Year`s Days and how "nightmarish" their lives were when they were in the North.
In North Korea, which adheres to its nuclear weapons program, the biggest victims would be its children. Young ones who would lead a reunified Korea in the future are withering away in the shadow of a nuclear-armed garrison state. According to the United Nations, Yanggang Province showed a chronic malnutrition rate of 39.6 percent among newborns and infants, the highest in the North. Even a relatively better-off Pyongyang showed the rate of 19.6 percent. In overall North Korea, three of 10 children are nothing but skin and bones because of malnutrition.
According to 2011 data, 11-year-old South Korean boys were, on average, 144 centimeters tall, weighing 39 kilograms, while their North Korean peers were 125 centimeters in height and weighed 23 kilograms on average. Children who had an insufficient supply of nutrition up to 1,000 days after birth do not grow very much no matter how well they eat afterwards. Some studies suggest that such malnutrition causes affected children to lag behind others in developing learning capabilities or brains. On the Korean Peninsula, where humans are virtually the only resources, North Korean children`s developmental disorders cast dark shadows over the future of the peninsula.
Some North Korean children who risked their lives to defect to the South end up in other countries, failing to overcome South Koreans` discriminations and prejudices. Women reporters who covered North Korean children in third countries for the Dong-A Ilbo`s "Reunified Korea Project," broke into tears when they heard the children`s unfortunate destinies. The World Food Program says that about 25 cents a day can provide all vitamins and nutrition required for the healthy growth of a child suffering from starvation. During the period from 2011 until last year, the South Korean government`s direct or indirect humanitarian aid via nongovernmental organizations to the North amounted to zero. Seoul only provided 2.2 billion won (21 million U.S. dollars) through international organizations.
The South Korean government said that it will continue to seek to provide humanitarian aid for the needy North Koreans by separating such aid with political situations. Seoul should not hesitate to provide aid for the children just because Pyongyang escalates military tensions. However, such aid must be provided in kind in principle so that it can reach starved children. Seoul should show its sincerity over its proposed Korean Peninsula trust process not with lip services but with action.