Seoul in aid of food-starved North

The South Korean government takes up UN agencies appeal The Unification Ministry: "Food aid is an obligation, both from a humanitarian perspective and as a compatriot". Last year, North Korean agricultural production reached its lowest level since 2008. 40% of the population is in urgent need of food.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - South Korea believes that food shortages in North Korea are serious and that Pyongyang needs external assistance, despite media reports that rice prices are falling, says Lee Sang-min, spokesman for the Unification Ministry in Seoul.

Some media reports say that in recent times the cost of cereal in North Korean markets is dropping, suggesting that the country could avoid the food crisis feared by United Nations (UN) agencies. But Seoul denies the rumors. "We recognize the assessment made by the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as official indicators and targets," says Lee Sang-min.

""Given the nature of the North Korean regime, it is thought that there are many limits to estimating the food situation there with (market) indicators other than official prices or those provided by official organizations," he added. "Our stance remains unchanged that it is necessary to provide food from a humanitarian and compatriots’ perspective”.

Based on a visit to North Korea earlier this month, the WFP and FAO reported that last year's agricultural production in the country reached its lowest level since 2008, adding that around 10 million people , accounting for around 40% of the population, are in urgent need of food. Earlier this week, WFP executive director David Beasley expressed serious concerns about North Korea's food situation and urged Seoul to make additional donations.