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[Editorial] NK Should Also Accept Food Aid

Posted December. 11, 2009 08:53,   


North Korea has accepted South Korea’s offer of aid to tackle H1N1 flu. Considering that the North has not yet officially responded to the offer of the (South) Korea National Red Cross to provide 10,000 tons of corn, Pyongyang’s swift response to the offer is exceptional. That means the communist country is in urgent need of flu aid. Since the flu outbreak should be handled as an emergency, relevant aid procedures should be simplified to expedite medical assistance to the North.

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that nine of its people tested positive for the H1N1 virus. It seems, however, that Pyongyang has faced conditions far worse. The human rights organization Good Friends says the flu outbreak in the North began early last month. Forty North Koreans have died of the flu, and schools in the North began winter vacation Friday, a month earlier than usual. If the North’s flu outbreak is combined with the weak health of North Koreans and their poor healthcare system, a public health disaster could ensue. Certain experts say around seven million North Koreans, or 30 percent of the population, could get infected with the flu virus in the worst case.

Since the flu is spreading at an extremely rapid pace, a swift and simultaneous response is desperately needed. Seoul must provide a large amount of medicine to help Pyongyang to stamp out the disease. If possible, South Korea needs to provide medical equipment and experts for the situation to help the North contain disease.

Food aid is no different. After considering North Korea’s harvest, imports and international food aid, the U.N. World Food Program predicts that North Korea will need at least 5.13 million tons of food to feed its people, but also a shortfall of 840,000 tons this year. Nevertheless, Pyongyang unilaterally declined to receive food aid from the U.S. in March. Moreover, it has rejected the South’s offer of 10,000 tons of corn, 20 tons of powdered milk, and medical aid for babies, toddlers and pregnant women. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il should dispassionately consider what is the best way to save the lives of his people and stabilize his society.