United States Foreign AidMany positive outcomes occur when international aid strengthens. Throughout history, there have been substantial global benefits when the U.S. focused on international support. In the past and present, U.S. foreign aid has brought positive effects.

The Marshall Plan

In 1948, western Europe sought postwar aid for rebuilding their nations. The U.S. issued the Marshall Plan, created by U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The plan provided $13.3 billion in foreign aid over four years. With this aid, western Europe began successfully rebuilding itself.

Due to this aid, the countries of western Europe are now some of the U.S.’ strongest allies and trading partners. These partners include but are not limited to France, England and Germany. By helping countries in need and investing money into international aid, these countries invest back in the U.S. This has positively impacted the U.S. economy and its global reputation. Those countries now see the U.S. as an ally, not an isolationist state.

The Green Revolution

The U.S. helped to reduce food insecurity and poverty globally by championing the Green Revolution, a 1940s revolution of agricultural techniques started by Norman Borlaug in Mexico. Due to the successes in Mexico’s agricultural sector, countries worldwide began using these Green Revolution techniques in the next two decades. Initially, Borlaug developed resilient and high-yielding varieties of wheat to increase agricultural yields. Later, Borlaug developed high-yielding varieties of rice.

To expand Green Revolution techniques to the rest of the world, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and other government agencies decided to fund further research. In 1963, through this financial support, Mexico established a research center called The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

Nations across the globe reaped the benefits of Borlaug’s and the research institution’s efforts. The U.S. Agency for International Development stood as a driving force in expanding the Green Revolution globally, “producing history’s most dramatic increase in food production through the development of high-yielding cereal varieties.” USAID was key in launching the Green Revolution, a term former USAID Administrator William Gaud coined in 1968.

During the middle of the 1960s, Asia noted high rates of famine and malnutrition, especially in countries like India. Higher yielding wheat and rice varieties led to poverty reduction and economic growth. In Asia, real per capita incomes increased by nearly 50% between 1970 and 1995, and poverty reduced from “nearly three out of every five Asians in 1975 to less than one in three by 1995.” In India, the rural poverty rate was as much as 65% before the mid-1960s, but by 1993, it had reduced to about 33%.

Possibilities for the Future of Ukraine

The U.S. can invest more in international aid and foreign affairs. Although the U.S. is the world’s wealthiest country, foreign aid was less than 1% of its budget in 2019. Ukraine and other countries impacted by the Russia-Ukraine war received a $40 billion aid package from the U.S. in May 2022. Yet, the U.S. allocated nearly half for military aid and just $16 billion for humanitarian and government assistance.

Looking to the Past

Past and present examples show the positive effects of U.S. foreign aid. The Marshall Plan shows how the U.S. gained long-term allies, and the Green Revolution highlights how U.S. foreign aid decreased world poverty. The Russia-Ukraine war is a current conflict in which the U.S. can allocate more foreign aid with the assurance of past proven success.

– Thomas Bogucki
Photo: Pexels

North Korean defectorsNorth Korea ranks among the poorest countries on Earth, with an absolute poverty rate estimated at 60% as of 2020. As a result, more than 30,000 people have made the harrowing journey to escape from the country to seek refuge in South Korea. Many choose to escape as a last resort, feeling that they are facing a choice between certain death and possible survival. The oppressive nature of the North Korean regime and the risk of starvation as a result of food shortages are the most cited reasons given by defectors who made the decision to escape from the North. No matter their reasons for fleeing, the trek from the North to the South is a daunting experience for North Korean defectors, even after they have successfully escaped.

The Escape

North Koreans have two options for managing escape from the country. Defectors can attempt to cross through the long, northern border with China, patrolled by both Chinese and Korean military. Once in China, escapees face the fact that it is illegal for Chinese citizens to assist North Korean defectors. Managing to covertly make it out of China and secure refuge in South Korea can therefore be extremely challenging.

However, the other option is notorious for its difficulty and risk—attempting to cross the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. This is the most heavily guarded and fortified border on Earth, with guards patrolling both sides 24/7, barbed-wire fences, minefields, sensors and a 19-meter-thick concrete wall. The crossing has been even more impossible Since Kim Jung-Un closed the border completely in 2020 to stem the flow of COVID-19, according to CNN.

Therefore, the majority of defectors flee North across the Chinese border. However, no matter which route defectors choose to take, they risk life and limb in pursuit of a better life. The journey is extremely risky.

Arrival in a New World

For those who make it to the South, the struggle is unfortunately not over. North Korea has been insulated from the world and its political and technological progress for more than 50 years. The complete isolation from modernity that North Korean citizens face, in conjunction with distorted propaganda about the outside world, leads to confusion and overwhelm for those who make it out.

North Korean defectors describe bewilderment at things like brightly colored street signs, CNN reports. They have never used a cell phone, utilized public transportation, or had a bank card. The bits and bobs of advanced capitalism and democracy are completely alien to those who escape. As such, the relief they experience upon making it across the border lasts short for many, who realize they still have much to overcome.

However, the South Korean government provides comprehensive integration services for arriving refugees. “Hanawon” and is a three-month resettlement and training school, according to BBC. The program teaches refugees how to use an ATM, ride a bus and use a computer. They receive instructions on democracy and citizenship and advise on how to secure a job. Essentially, they also receive training to adapt to their community.

Afterward, the program provides refugees with a public housing unit, a housing subsidy, settlement benefits and an assigned police officer to check in on them every now and then. Beyond that, they are on their own, BBC reports.

Unexpected Struggles

Once left to fend for themselves, many refugees find that the things they learned in the classroom are inadequate or non-transferrable to the new world around them.

The difficulty and overwhelm can get to be so much that a significant fraction of refugees, a staggering 18.5%, report regretting making the journey to the South at all. They cite cultural differences, isolation, and economic problems as the cause.

This feeling of difference and isolation is largely the result of discrimination toward North Koreans. Identified by their accents, they are actively passed up on job opportunities and are treated with suspicion and contempt.  One defector described their treatment as akin to that of “cigarette ashes thrown away on the street,” The Conversation reports.

Further, refugees have almost universally experienced extreme trauma through their ordeals. Nine out of 10 refugees arrive with PTSD. However, counseling services through Hanawon are limited and need improvement, according to the BBC.

Mental health issues— exacerbated by feelings of isolation and lack of belonging— can blossom in these populations if left unaddressed.

The Fight for Change

Koreans are not content to allow discrimination and a lack of mental health care to fester among these extremely vulnerable refugees. Saejowi is a nonprofit in South Korea that is working to supplement the services of Hanawon and make the transition into the South more successful and painless for refugees.

Saejowi addresses mental health barriers by training and licensing escaped North Koreans to become counselors for their fellow refugees. To date, it has produced more than 220 licensed counselors and is working to expand its impact, according to its website.

Saejowi does not stop there. It also works to reduce cultural barriers and discrimination between North and South Koreans by sponsoring cultural exchange programs, including festivals, plays and potlucks.

Through these vital services, Saejowi is continuing to improve the lives of North Korean defectors that were able to make a miraculous escape from devastating poverty.

– Grace Ramsey
Photo: Flickr