The Earth Time / November 16-30, 1996

Let them eat chocolate


Soon Young Yoon



General MacArthur's statue in the Whitney Museum stood near eight feet tall; his knuckles rested confidently on his hips. His eyes looked sharp as if he were inspection you, instead of you gazing at him.


The greater than life size was a reminder that this man had once wielded uncommon power. With a wave of a hand, he decided the fate of thousands of American soldiers and millions of Korean during the Korean War.


Memories of the American soldiers who served under him hung on the walls-hundreds of small, rectangle blocks showing the stripes from uniform badges. Added a mood of solemn silence. Yes, too many soldiers died in the "forgotten" war. This artistic memorial to the Korean War was long overdue.


But what was this sweet pungent smell? I looked closer at the general's elbow. Yes. Confirmed. This smell was coming from his cuff, his jacket and he walls. It was the brown stuff of children's dreams and Christmas cheer.


It was none other than the wonderful smell of dark chocolate. For many Korean children who were starving during the war, it was also the scent of America.


The brilliant artist, Ik joong Kang, justified his reason for choosing chocolate as the material for his monument. As he explains it, some of his clearest childhood memories were of good-willed American soldiers throwing chocolate bars to children.

The soldiers shared some of the most exotic goods imaginable. The children's favorite was gum because it's flavor lasted forever; candy went down quicker. Many children hoarded gum and candy wrappers for weeks, smelling them over and over again to relive that satisfying moment.


It's ironic that candy and gum should be the enduring memories of starvation. But, indeed, when one is very hungry, the first taste of anything is wonderful and unforgettable. Taste is a conduit back to childhood memories. Sadly, for today' children in war-torn countries like Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda these memories may best be forgotten.


According to the United Nations Children's fund, in 1995, there were 30 major armed conflicts raging around the world. In the past decade, nearly two million children have been killed in wars-many of these died of diseases related to malnutrition and lack of safe water and sanitation. Their own armies have sold international relief goods for arms. The children have waited for food aid that never arrived because of embargoes.


At the forthcoming the meeting in Rome of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization more than 120 Heads of State and Government are expected to recommit themselves to global food security. One of the five "commitments" in the World Food Summit Plan of Action deals with victims of civil conflicts.


It states: "we will endeavor to prevent and be prepared for natural disasters and man-made emergencies and to meet transitory and emergency food requirements in ways that encourage recovery, rehabilitation, development and a capacity to satisfy future need. There are two ideas to note here. First, the document acknowledges that reducing military spending and promoting peace are as important as emergencies.


Second, it emphasizes programs to ensure rehabilitation of agriculture and a transition to sustainable development instead of indefinite dependence on external aid. Both are welcome solutions and commitments. Also, important is the recommendation ensuring women an equal decision-making role in relief policies and programs.


On the other hand, there is little discussion on how governments and international bodies will live up to the commitments- the all important money and institutional arrangement discussions are often missing. Heads of State and Government who will make statements at the World Food Summit should clarify their strategies and positions beyond vague generalizations. Otherwise, we will probably see little action on the problems of refugees and food security after the meeting is over, except, perhaps, more sweet talk.