More defectors from Communist North Korea are making their way across the border to the South as political instability and economic hardship intensify. Reports from the North tell of growing unrest and severe shortages of food caused by flooding and poor harvests last year. Among the latest refugees are Chung Kab-ryol, a prominent research scientist, and Chang Hae-song, a playwright.
Because of the increasing flow of refugees into South Korea and the genuine threat of a human disaster in the North, the Clinton Administration has decided to grant an additional $6 million of food aid to North Korea. The United States hopes that such assistance will encourage the North Korean government to make concessions in the U.S.'s ongoing efforts to forge a peace treaty for the Korean peninsula. However, the Administration intends to grant the aid in any case, both for humanitarian reasons and because of an urgent appeal from the United Nations.
The United States is in a complicatied situation with respect to North Korea. Long the backer of the South Korean government, the U.S. wants to quell the recent belligerence of the North while at the same time maintaining its close relations with the South. One theory about the North's recent bellicosity is that it arises from the desperate need of North Korea's government to justify its authority. The current leader, Kim Jong-il, inherited his position from his father, Kim Il-sung, who had led the regime in Pyongyang for four decades, and it is widely understood that the younger Kim has neither the intelligence nor the leadership capabilities that his father possessed.
One reason the U.S. would like to reach an understanding with North Korea is that, more than forty years after the end of the Korean war, there are some 8,000 American soldiers missing in action (MIA) and still unaccounted for. This figure makes the MIA issue in Vietnam, which has been fraught with emotion for the past twenty years, pale in comparison.
For a great deal of information about many countries, turn to one of the McKinley Internet Yellow Pages' 4-star Web sites, The CIA World Fact Book.