The Rosett Report

Would You Give Money to Kim Jong Il?

Yes, on top of Oil-for-Fraud, Sex-for-Food, the car for Kojo, the $500,000 cash prize for Kofi, the tyrant-packed Human Rights Council, and other ventures of this kind, the UN now has a burgeoning scandal over the UN Development Program’s operations in nuclear-happy North Korea. Scroll down to the “related video” inside this UNDP link to watch Ad Melkert, an official of the UN Development Program, explaining to the press why pouring money without adequate oversight into Pyongyang is just dandy. Excerpt: “The assurance that no money may have gone to nuclear programs we derive from the audits that have been put in place in recent years.”

What’s wrong with that statement:

1) Money is fungible. Even food aid is fungible.

2) Shades of Oil-for-Food, the audits of this UN program have been so secret that when the U.S. government asked to see them, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis first said no. When U.S. diplomat Mark Wallace pressed for access, the UNDP finally let U.S. officials look at the audits and take notes at UNDP headquarters — but wouldn’t give them copies. What they saw was anything but reassuring.

So, would you give money for Melkert and his colleagues at the UNDP? If you’re a U.S. taxpayer, you already do — out of the more than $5.3 billion per year the U.S. currently lavishes on the UN system, hundreds of millions go to the UNDP, which in turn pours millions into North Korea.

This is aid that helps sustain the Pyongyang regime, and has done so for years. It is exactly the kind of UN development that worried me back in 1991, when I made a visit to Pyongyangand came away convinced that giving North Korea a seat at the UN was not going to work out well. (Back then, newly democratic South Korea was of much the same opinion. That was before the U.S., at the behest of Jimmy Carter, and under the leadership of Bill Clinton, opened the aid spigot to Kim in exchange for a nuclear “freeze” on which Pyongyang — who’d’a thought? — in short order began to cheat).

P.S. North Korea is one of 36 countries sitting on the UNDP’s executive board, and according to the correspondence released Friday by the U.S. Mission, the UN is paying more than $35,000 for three North Korean officials to fly business class, roundtrip from Pyongyang to New York, to attend meetings including that of the UNDP board this coming week. After U.S. criticism, UNDP officials have said they will change that policy going forward, and leave it to member states to pay for such travel. OK, that’s a small step in the right direction. But what is North Korea doing on the UNDP board at all?