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Seoul Metropolitan City’s Humanitarian Action Plan for North Korea

In-Chul Mun

Human rights are the most basic and universal rights of mankind. The international community justifies humanitarian intervention in terrible situations in certain countries for the purpose of protecting citizen’s human rights. The legitimacy of such humanitarian intervention is secured from the realization that the welfare of mankind as a whole based must be protected through these human rights protection principles. Therefore, Seoul Metropolitan City’s humanitarian activities for North Korea are related to the realization of welfare that all human beings deserve, including North and South Koreans.
The humanitarian activities of Seoul come from a love for humanity that goes beyond national, ethnic, racial, political, economic, social and cultural boundaries. Moreover, we are one Korean people, as such we have to coexist for peace and unification with North Korea. ‘Peace and unification’ is not just an issue for the central government. It is a matter that all actors of the nation, including local governments and citizens throughout the peninsula, must work together.
It is not in harmony with the spirit of humanitarianism to support things which were left out of our abundance. Moreover, South Korea has about 40 times higher economic power than North Korea as well as a very stable welfare system. On the other hand, North Koreans suffer from hunger and various diseases due to economic difficulties and food shortages. Seoul’s humanitarian activities for North Korea are not about the strong showing favor to the weak. Humanitarian activities in Seoul are actions to help us live together maintaining and protecting human dignity, which is a universal value we hold dear. 
Living together on the Korean peninsula means securing peace and unification.
The international community’s sanctions on North Korea due to it’s attempted nuclear proliferation limit most inter-Korean cooperation projects. Accordingly, despite the terrible humanitarian situation in North Korea, domestic and foreign humanitarian organizations have had a hard time supporting North Korea. However, humanitarian action for North Korea is not a subject of the sanctions. Rather, the UN points out the negative impact of strong sanctions on humanitarian activities for North Korea. As such, the sanctions against North Korea are aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, and are not obstacles to Seoul's humanitarian activities. As a capital city, Seoul should actively engage in humanitarian activities for North Korea to serve as a model for other local governments.
Seoul’s humanitarian activities for North Korea will contribute significantly to promoting peace on the Korean peninsula. The humanitarian activities of Seoul can be a starting point for improving inter-Korean relations and help achieve sustainability. Seoul’s humanitarian activities for North Korea will also contribute mutual economic benefits in that they are carried out in spirit of cooperation rather than unilateral support. Seoul's humanitarian activities for North Korea will also contribute to the practice and spread of the norms of the international community, including the SDGs. In addition, Seoul’s humanitarian activities will also serve as the basis for non-traditional security cooperation between the two Koreas, including tacking issues such as poverty, infectious diseases, environment and human rights. Stable inter-Korean relations are to be based on mutual trust. In this regard, the humanitarian activities of Seoul will help North Koreans to increase their awareness of and positive feelings about South Korea and it will in turn lead to the promotion of a beneficial mutual relationship between the two Koreas. Accordingly, Seoul’s or South Koreans’ understanding of North Korea will be also enhanced. The humanitarian activities of Seoul also will strengthen Seoul’s role as local government in decentralized North Korea policy. As the capital of South Korea, Seoul must lead such a decentralized North Korea policy.
Given the poor humanitarian situation in North Korea and the reciprocity between the two Koreas, Seoul can explore various ways to give assistance such as support from energy bars support to help food diversity, support from goods to protect against the cold and health sanitation supplies, establishment of video call family reunion system and help creating disaster prevention systems. In particular, Seoul can explore ways to use the city’s social economy for humanitarian activities in North Korea. This will help Seoul’s vulnerable groups and can serve as the basis for building humanitarian action platform in North Korea.