With a fury reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina, Typhoon Lionrock savaged northeast Asia two weeks ago, unleashing floods that left 100,000 North Koreans homeless and more than half a million without water. The devastation was so extraordinary that the North Korean government responded in a way equally unprecedented — by turning to the West for help.
I confess that my initial reaction was smug satisfaction. There’s something providential about a rogue nation responsible for instigating so much strife and apprehension around the world coming hat-in-hand to beg for international aid and succor.
However, after a moment’s reflection my feelings of moral superiority evaporated instantaneously. The victims here are not corrupt government nabobs; rather, they are the self-same people already victimized by the congenital corruption of their rulers. Even if the Orwellian tactics of the Kim dynasty have successfully hypnotized and lobotomized the people of North Korea into abject reverence, those hapless people hardly deserve the added suffering and indignation of a world denying them aid because of the sins of their overlords.
Divine justice will have to wait a bit longer.
To complicate matters further, just last week North Korea conducted yet another nuclear test in violation of its already-violated non-proliferation treaty. And so, with the UN blustering about increased sanctions and South Korea preparing for “the worst-case scenario,” humanitarian organizations are grappling with the logical and logistical problems of aiding the unfortunate citizens of a terrorist nation without helping the nation itself.
Of course, this is hardly a new dilemma.