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[Editorial] Seoul blindly gives food to N. Korea

Posted October. 04, 2000 12:31,   


The government is known to be ready to ship food to North Korea as soon as a loan contract is signed between the designated banks of the two Koreas at the truce village of Panmunjeom on Wednesday. Under the aid program the initial shipment of 20,000 tons of Chinese corn, out of a total of 600,000 tons of grains promised to the North, is to leave Dalian, China, to reach Nampo port in North Korea on Thursday.

Granting that food supplies to aid Pyongyang are inevitable, it is open to doubt why the Seoul government is making such haste in giving them.

Specialists and the domestic press repeatedly have pointed out that proper procedures of verifying what needs to be verified and seeking the consent of the Southern population should precede the delivery of food aid. But the government is rushing to send food in disregard of this counsel of caution.

The first thing to do is to check up on North Korea's agricultural output, its food requirements, the amount of supplies provided by other countries and on the results of efficient and fair distribution.

A few international organizations, including the World Food Program, have sent their personnel for a field survey of North¡¯s crops during the current harvest season in preparation for making recommendations on the quantities of food assistance required. In contrast, the South Korean government is cutting corners to give unconditional aid without taking the trouble to make any investigation.

Inasmuch as most of the aid is intended to be a loan ascertaining the commitment of Pyongyang to the fulfillment of contract terms -- which is important -- it is beyond comprehension for the South to provide food with no accord having been established on concrete methods of ensuring the fairness and transparency of its distribution.

Officials here keep saying we can negotiate measures to ensure transparent and reasonable distribution, even after food rationing has begun. It is anybody's guess how that could be done in light of the balky attitude of the North of late. It hardly seems a realistic expectation.