02/28/2005, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA - NORTH KOREA
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South Korea sends food aid to the North despite protests by South Korean activists

South Korean citizens, Washington and Tokyo criticise Seoul's stance vis-à-vis Kim Jong-il's regime

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – South Korea has completed delivering food aid to North Korea. With 6,500 tonnes of corn to be sent this week through North Korea's western port of Nampo, the last batch of 100,000 tonnes that Seoul pledged for the UN's World Food Programme last year would have reached its destination.

This action falls in line with Seoul's decision to take a softer line against Pyongyang despite international tensions over North Korea's nuclear programme and its decision to no longer take part in the six-party talks.

"South Korea remains committed to continuing to offer humanitarian assistance to North Korea in a desire to promote South-North co-operation," a South Korean official said. But angry activists yesterday burned North Korean flags in protest at its drive for nuclear weapons and urged Seoul to stop aid.

Japan and the US want South Korea to take a harder line against the North as well, but Seoul has opted for a calm and flexible approach to the nuclear standoff and a more sensitive stand on the North's humanitarian crisis. The impoverished North Korea relies on foreign aid to feed many of its 24 million people.

The UN food agency still needs 500,000 tonnes of food worth US$ 202 million to help feed 6.5 million North Koreans, especially children, women and the elderly.

Gerald Bourke, the agency's top official in North Korea, said last week that the country was far from being able to feed itself. The situation is such that Pyongyang had to reduce food rations to 250 grams per day, half of what the average person needs per day.

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