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Unification Ministry Lax in North Korean Aid Monitoring

Posted July. 11, 2007 03:13,   


When natural hazards like floods occur in North Korea, the South Korean government sends “humanitarian assistance.” But it has turned out that the government failed to monitor whether the emergency relief aid was being used appropriately.

The government spent 221 billion won (229 million dollars) from August last year to June this year to help North Korea repair damage from last July’s flood. But the Ministry of Unification said on July 10 that the after-monitoring of its use has not yet started.

After a massive flood hit North Korea last year, the ministry announced a plan to send relief aid to the North. At that time, the ministry pledged to visit the affected areas from time to time and see whether the sent items are used for the right purposes. The pledge has not yet been delivered.

The items that the government sent to Pyongyang via the Korean Red Cross include: 100,000 tons of rice, 100,000 tons of cement, 5,000 tons of iron reinforcing rods, 210 relief machines, 80,000 blankets, 10,000 emergency kits, and medicines.

“While sending the relief aid, Pyongyang conducted the nuclear test, so we had to stop; assistance was resumed this year. Due to this change in schedule, it was difficult for us to monitor the use of the aid. We will continue to negotiate with the North regarding field monitoring and access to their rationing lists,” said one official at the unification ministry.

However, many think that the monitoring, in effect, will be of no use, since the rationing of the relief aid might have already been finished.

After a railway station explosion had occurred in Ryongchon in North Pyongan Province in April 2004, the ministry also sent relief aid such as rice and cement. But the monitoring was done one year after the delivery, drawing criticism from the public.

Some point out that we should strengthen the monitoring of our rice aid, which is provided in return for Pyongyang’s scrapping of its nuclear program.

Seoul and Pyongyang made an agreement to visit three places on the east coast and two places on the west coast to oversee the allocation of aid whenever Seoul sends 100,000 tons of rice. The World Food Program, however, has an office in Pyongyang and monitors whether North Korean officials are making disproportionate allocations to the military.

In the meantime, the government sent 10 billion won (10.87 million dollars) worth of road paving materials to help proceed with the Mt. Baekdu tour project planned by Hyundai Asan and the Korea Tourism Organization. However, its usage has not yet been confirmed.

A total of 16,000 tons of materials were sent to the North in August 2005 and March 2006, but Pyongyang has not responded since July last year. Currently, the project is on hold.

“To push the project forward, we are contacting the North via several channels. But because there has not been any response from the North, we are having difficulties,” said one unification ministry official.