“The South Korean government will provide 50,000 tons of food aid to North Korea through international organizations next week,” Rep. Seol Hoon, a member of the ruling Democratic Party’s Supreme Council, said on Friday. It is the first time for the incumbent Moon Jae-in administration to release a plan to provide food aid to the North.
“(Even if South Korea provides 50,000 tons of rice), the North will still need additional supply of more than 1.45 million tons to be able to resolve its food crisis,” Rep. Seol said at a meeting of the party’s Supreme Council, which took place at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom on the day. “The timing of rice supply should not be after the May-September period when the North will need (food aid) more than any other time,” he added. “It is true that not a few South Koreans are criticizing the North, but the South Korean government should not hesitate to provide food aid to the North nonetheless.”
While Seoul made official that it would seek to provide food aid to the North since a call between the leaders of South Korea and the U.S. on May 7, the government has been delaying announcing a detailed plan, saying, “We will gather opinions.” However, Seoul is apparently considering the method of supplying 50,000 tons of rice through international organizations, among other options. “Originally, there was a suggestion to provide 300,000 tons of rice, but the government seems to have reduced supply in consideration of public opinion,” an official from an international organization said.
However, as the Seoul government is moving to provide food aid through international organizations, watchers raised the suspicion that Seoul’s plan to reopen dialogue through direct assistance between the authorities of South and North Korea may have hit a snag. Seoul has had expectations for high-level inter-Korean talks that would discuss food aid and other issues.
“The Seoul government should consider providing aid independently, rather than indirectly through international organizations, and immediately by taking into account the urgency of the situation,” Rep. Seol said. Against this backdrop, a source in South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that no decision has been made about (the government’s plan to supply food aid), adding that it will inform when a decision is made.
Sung-Hwi Kang firstname.lastname@example.org