Photo via BBC
Despite antagonizing the international community with a fifth missile test this week, North Korea has begun receiving aid for what they say is the “heaviest downpour” since 1945, which has caused massive flooding, per CNN. Most of the flooding is occurring in the Northwest of the country in the counties of Musan, Hoeryong City, and Yansa. According to international relations professor Bradley Williams of City University in Hong Kong, those counties are particularly vulnerable because they contain labor camps and heavily impoverished communities filled with “forces considered hostile to the regime,” per CNN. The New York Times reports that 133 are confirmed dead, in addition to 395 missing. 70,000 people are without shelter, and the floods came just before the harvest period, negatively affecting food supplies for months to come.
The North Korean government sent out a rare public plea in English for international assistance. Only a few aid agencies are currently operating among them, with the majority of aid coming from the United Nations World Food Program. They re-ported delivering food assistance in the form of biscuits and beans to around 150,000 people. Internally, the Workers Party of Korea has redirected workers who are carrying out a 200 day “campaign to boost the economy” toward flood aid, per CNN. According to Chris Staines, head of a Red Cross delegation in the area, a massive rebuilding project will need to get underway soon to shelter residents from the up-coming sub-zero temperatures. The missile test that pre-empted the flood relief effort came this past Thursday, September 8th. According to ABC, it is the second one this year, following a miniature hydrogen bomb test carried out in January. It has angered the international community and has even drawn rare criticism from China, who has “urged international dialogue,” per ABC.
The rate of progression in North Korean testing is alarming and has left some, like CNN columnist Brad Lendon, openly wondering if North Korea’s next missile could have a nuclear warhead atop it. Three of North Korea’s five tests have come under their new leader, Kim Jong-Un, who invites new sanctions with reckless behavior and threats.
It remains to be seen what, if any, international sanctions will be placed on North Korea.
In the meantime, the UN bears the majority of responsibility for feeding and housing displaced North Koreans, as most agencies have “with-drawn from the country,” according to The New York Times.