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Rice Aid for the N. Korean Army?

Posted September. 24, 2010 17:47,   


On June 23, 1950, two days before the Korean War erupted, the headquarters of the South Korean Army ordered soldiers to take leave due to a rice shortage. The emergency alert level was also lifted as military officials ignored warnings from front-line army divisions over looming signs of war. With a third of South Korean soldiers on leave, the North invaded the South on June 25.

Upon invading the ancient Korean dynasty of Goguryeo, Emperor Yang of China`s Sui Dynasty made soldiers carry a small amount of food and had his army supply food afterwards. The food never got to his soldiers, however, because the Sui army was defeated by Goguryeo.

Park Jie-won, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, said, "The North might have a certain amount of rice stored for wartime use, but this was not sent by the South," adding that Seoul sends polished rice to Pyongyang that can be stored for up to a year. He was responding to a claim by his ruling Grand National Party counterpart Kim Moo-sung that Pyongyang has stockpiled a million tons of rice in preparation for war. When Unification Minister Hyun In-taek announced an aid package of 10,000 tons of rice to the North, Park said, "Send the rice to Minister Hyun`s home. It is better to do away with the Unification Ministry (if it is so passive on rice aid for the North)."

Rice lasts longer than corn and can easily be used as army provisions. The 400,000 tons of rice Seoul sent to Pyongyang in 2007 were also believed to be stored for military use. A year later, 400 bags of rice bearing the mark of the South Korean Red Cross were spotted in a North Korean military camp by the South. When the North secures rice, it is known to first fill "Storage No. 2," a military rice reserve for wartime emergencies, and then takes out old rice from that storage for supply to the general public.

The North might be using rice from the South to feed its soldiers and storing rice that it produced as reserves for wartime emergencies. Seoul sent Pyongyang 2.4 million tons of rice from 2000 to 2007, but few North Korean defectors say they ate it. The Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations of South Korea sent hundreds of thousands of tons annually to the North, but were negligent in transparency of distribution. It is absurd to send wartime reserves to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il`s military, which has refused to apologize for sinking the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan March 26.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)