This is the first time since 2010 that South Korea sends rice to the North. The government hopes to deliver the aid by the end of September for US $ 107.9 million. Thanks to assistance from abroad, the price of rice drops to benefit all North Koreans.
Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – South Korea will send 50,000 tonnes of rice to North Korea through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Unification minister Kim Yeon-chul announced yesterday. This is Seoul’s second aid package in recent weeks.
A serious drought is in progress in North Korea. UN aid agencies report that food production in the country fell dramatically last year, putting the lives of millions of North Koreans at risk. Pyongyang has admitted drawbacks in agricultural production.
For South Korea, this is the first time it is sending rice to the North since 2010, when then President Lee Myung-bak's government sent 5,000 tonnes of the cereal grain to help the North Korean population affected by floods.
However, this is the first time, Seoul is shipping the rice to the North through an international agency.
Minister Kim Yeon-chul noted that the government will do its best to deliver the aid by the end of September. It expects to spend around 127 billion won (US$ 107.9 million) for the operation.
Humanitarian aid to the North continues to fuel a major debate in South Korea. Some, above all conservatives, believe the Communist regime could resell the food or, at best, provide it only to its own members.
For Lee Ha-neul, 42, who managed to escape to South Korea in 2009, "You can’s turn rice into nuclear weapons. When food aid from outside comes to the North, food prices at private markets there fall immediately, which is good for everyone”.