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North Korea

Kim should admit relief agencies

North Korea is again asking for humanitarian aid as the country reels from the effects of devastating floods. Several relief agencies and the UN are preparing to provide food and water.

How should the world respond? What can North Korea do this time to break the pattern of distrust?

In October last year, the UN humanitarian chief discussed with North Korea's deputy foreign affairs minister the provision of aid for what appeared to be some progress towards dismantling its nuclear programme.

Officially, there is no link between politics and humanitarian aid, but North Korea's response to food aid in the past has made agencies reluctant to rush in. In April 2011, the UN World Food Programme appealed for US$218 million in emergency aid.

Only a third of that amount was pledged, amid tension over North Korea's provocative behaviour and questions about whether it was diverting aid to its military and ruling elite. But has the coming of Kim Jong-un changed all that?

At a meeting with Wang Jiarui of China's Communist Party Central Committee, Kim is reported to have said, 'Developing the economy and improving livelihoods so that the Korean people lead happy and civilised lives is the goal the Korean Workers' Party is struggling towards' ('Kim hosts China envoy, spurring reform hopes', August 4).

Has Kim established himself firmly enough to launch the economic reforms his country and people desperately need?

Western distrust arising from 10 years of systemic aggression of the juche regime against its own people means that Kim has a lot of ground to make up if he is to enlist the long-term help of foreign relief agencies in his reforms.

What better way to show his good intentions than to invite the relief agencies in to oversee the distribution of aid to the people who need it most, and then declare an amnesty for those political and religious detainees held in his notorious gulags.

Perhaps it is asking for too much. But, after all, he is only 29 and he knows from his own experience living outside North Korea what 'happy and civilised lives' should look like. What a great opportunity he has to be a truly great leader.

Tony Read, justice advocate, The Vine Church, Wan Chai

Too many vehicles, too little space

No wonder there is roadside pollution.

Watching the gridlock of traffic trying to penetrate the narrow access roads to Times Square is evidence enough - sometimes at a standstill, at others inching forward tortoise-like, so slowly to be barely discernible. A great deal of the time, the same vehicles circulate with only the driver in the car, waiting to pick up shoppers.

Meanwhile, pedestrians are hemmed in and forced into the face-high haze of emissions. You don't need to be a doctor or scientist to know this is bad for your health. My office building houses a number of tutorial schools catering for very young children, who come in spluttering or wearing masks.

Then an hour or so later, they go back into the smog of Leighton Road. For goodness' sake, let's have some proper air standards and some action to control the traffic. The police are in no position to sort it out on the piecemeal basis they have to act.

There are just too many vehicles being squeezed into a space that cannot sustain them.

Norman de Brackinghe, Pok Fu Lam

Rationalise use of private cars in city

We have had to endure air pollution in Hong Kong for many years.

This is caused by different factors, including roadside pollution. Last week the roadside station level in Central was more than 200.

We have to accept that, in this regard, a major cause is the large number of cars in the city.

In some of our busiest areas such as Central and Causeway Bay, tall buildings block air flows.

You see people struggling to deal with this problem when standing on pavements at bus stops and traffic passes emitting exhaust fumes. All of us, the government and citizens, have a responsibility to do something about this.

I would like to see government policies that restrict the number of vehicles on our roads. Such policies should target private cars.

For instance, private cars with certain numbers on their licence plate would be allowed on the roads on certain days and not on others.

Alex Chan, Tai Po

'Inefficient' tenants still productive

In recent years, the government has emphasised the importance of developing creative industries and building a tech-savvy society. The mission of the Science and Technology Parks is to provide facilities, services and a dynamic environment so companies can nurture ideas.

If park management refuses to renew leases to tenants in the third phase who fail to meet energy-saving targets, it would run counter to its goals. The park should allow all applications to renew leases. Many organisations facilitate their research through the use of the park's state-of-the-art facilities. The park provides tenants with a dynamic environment, which will help Hong Kong become a world-class, hi-tech hub.

It would be unwise to save some energy but lose organisations that can produce useful inventions. Hong Kong has allocated a lot of resources towards creative industries and built many institutions. But we have not made good use of them when it comes to scientific research.

There is cutting-edge equipment at the science park that would lie idle if some leases were not renewed. Firms would be forced to move elsewhere and use older equipment that consumes more energy and increases their carbon footprint.

Imposing energy-saving conditions stifles creativity. I hope the science park renews all tenants' leases. It is more important to transform innovations and technological advancement into value creation that benefits Hong Kong, the mainland and the rest of the world.

Anson Lam, Sha Tin

All Olympic athletes are winners

I refer to the letter from Yau Tsz-yan ('It is not all about winning gold', August 8) which urged people not to forget the original Olympic spirit.

Your correspondent is right to say that some in the audience at the London Olympics only cared about who was winning medals.

I also noticed that a lot of attention was paid to the good-looking athletes who were having their pictures posted on Facebook.

Even worse was the criticism of some athletes when they failed to meet people's expectations. Comments were made online about Liu Xiang after he crashed out of the 110 metres hurdles.

Some people were sympathetic and said he had tried his best, while others said they were suspicious about what had happened and questioned his intentions in the race.

This is very unfair. As your correspondent pointed out, we should appreciate the efforts that all the athletes have made to get to the Games. They have had to practise very hard.

As far as I am concerned, all athletes who take part in the Olympics are winners, whether or not they get a medal.

Tsui Wing-hei, Kwun Tong

Gold for Taiwan's coverage

I was in Taiwan for part of the Olympics and had the good fortune of viewing their coverage.

This included 10 channels of HD coverage.

All channels had live, original feed in English (hello Nicam) and no commercials.

And there were no talking heads blathering on inanely.

Keven Kasten, Clear Water Bay

Who will fund our future?

In accepting a lower birth rate for Hong Kong, Dennis Li's letter ('Lower birth rate will be good for HK', August 7) notes that productivity has risen to the point where 'a train driver can take more than 2,000 passengers'.

That is true, but the average working person cannot support even one or two retirees.

The birth rate in Hong Kong is so low that the government could never implement a European-style social security system. There would be no one to fund it. And with the birth rate continuing to drop, the train driver of the future may not even find 2,000 people to drive.

Jim Robinson, Wan Chai