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[Editorial] Prerequisites for food assistance to Pyongyang

[Editorial] Prerequisites for food assistance to Pyongyang

Posted September. 27, 2000 20:42,   


The 3rd South-North ministerial talks started Wednesday for mutual consultations on various inter-Korean projects that both Koreas agreed to undertake since the June 15 Joint Declaration. It is just as well to make intermediate checks on their progress and to set future directions for mutual coordination.

What draws our special attention here is the issue of our North Korea food assistance, which will reportedly be made more specific and concrete at this meeting about the content and form of the aid. This is the issue Pyongyang is most interested in.

At the same time, the food assistance is also a very sensitive issue to South Koreans. It is not because they are opposed to the humanitarian food assistance, but because of some unique considerations the aid raises for a possible abuse of a humanitarian cause. Accordingly, careful arrangements must be made to clearly stipulate the contents and scale of our assistance as well as conditions and procedures to deliver the aid.

This requires, first, the administration's full disclosure and exact information about the North's food situation detailing the North's estimated harvest and the quantity of crop shortage as well as the expected food aid from China, the United States and Japan. This will be a rational step for the administration to take in order to persuade the people about its food assistance plan and to win their support for it.

The administration will fail to win the people's support if it attempts to persuade them in such a generalized fashion as to, for example, say only that ¡°Pyongyang asked for 1 million tons of food and grain but we decided to provide the North with 500-600 thousand tons due to our economic constraints.''

For obvious reasons, this daily has emphasized through its editorials, and repeatedly urged, that the administration should obtain the parliament's consent for the assistance. But, the administration argued that such parliamentary procedure is not needed because the money for the aid will be appropriated out of the already established Fund for the South-North Cooperation. Any dispensation of parliamentary debate, however, will damage the food aid's cause, no matter how justifiable.

There are diverse opinions expressing the pros and cons about our economic capabilities as well as other circumstantial considerations. The final decision about the aid quantity and procedures should be made after taking such factors into consideration in order to secure its transparency and justifiability.

It is also imperative for us to obtain the North's assurance about the transparent procedures to distribute the aid. This will insure fair and equitable distribution of our aid grains as to benefit all our starving North Korean compatriots. In parallel with the food assistance discussions, our delegates, if possible, must also negotiate with the North's representatives the establishment of institutional measures to ensure such procedures of just distribution.

We must not always put ourselves in a position to unconditionally accept the North's unilateral demands, no matter how eager and urgent it wants to strike the deal, so far as the food assistance is concerned. It is important that we take steady and necessary steps, one by one, which appear imperative before the provision of the aid.

In addition to the food assistance, we also hope that the 3rd South-North ministerial talks will deal, in-depth, with all pending issues that failed to adequately reflect our stand, such as the issues of separated family reunions, and measures for easing of military tensions. This will, then, make the administration less vulnerable to the criticism that Seoul always follows Pyongyang in inter-Korean negotiations.