North Korea Sold Ryongchon Relief Donations

ryongchon_hdrc-echo_dscn0110.jpgThe first clue should have been why they said they needed 50 televisions (background  and photos  of the still-not-quite-unexplained disaster; click the first link and scroll down for a before-and-after gif animation using satellite images). 

A North Korean government-sponsored company has reportedly been selling products to North Korean citizens using the nonprofit aid products received from the international community, including South Korea during the Yongchon disaster of April 2004.

Members of a North Korean aid organization located in Dandong City, Liaoning, China stated that 70 to 80 percent of relief products including blankets and medical tools were not sent to the citizens of Yongchon.

Apparently, it’s not vinalon that the Pyongyang’s beautiful people are all wearing.

The source added that with the drought this year necessities were in higher demand, and aid products were popular for being “˜foreign made products’ from China and South Korea, making them much more expensive than North Korean goods.

Here is what they got.

After the demolition of the Yongchon area with the explosion in 2004, the world responded with emergency relief goods and donations. At the “˜South-North Talks for the Yongchon Disaster Aid’, North Korea noted specific products and numbers including 1000t of reinforcing rods, 1,500 desks, 50 blackboards, 50 TVs, and 10,000 tons of food when requesting aid from South Korea.

South Korea provided aid worth 70 billion won including 42 billion won by the Red Cross and the rest from civil organizations. The aid also included basic relief products such as tools to repair the roads, ramen, blankets, flour, and drinking water, as well as products for students including desks and blackboards.

One furniture company worked until Sunday by creating a production line specially to send 1500 desk sets to North Korea.

After the accident China and Russia promised $1.2 million and $450,000 of emergency relief funds, respectively, while the U.S. and Japan donated $100,000 worth of medical kits, followed by Ireland and France.

Whether the government itself thought up this scam to take advantage of the explosion, on one hand, or whether this was a case of corrupt officials skimming off the top, on the other, I can’t really say.  The two theories aren’t mutually exclusive.  As predictable as this sort of thing is, at the time of the disaster, aid groups mostly  complained that the  North Koreans  had held up their donations at the border for prolonged periods.