Seoul considers sending emergency relief to flood-stricken northern neighbor
A South Korean nongovernmental organization sent 300 tons of flour aid to North Korea on Tuesday, following up on the first batch sent last week after an eight-month hiatus in humanitarian aid from the South.
The Seoul government had blocked all inter-Korean exchanges including nongovernmental aid since the North shelled a South Korean border island in November, killing four civilians.
Trucks loaded with 300 tons of flour aid provided by the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation head for North Korea on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
Seoul lifted the ban last month, signaling a possible breakthrough in the inter-Korean stalemate. Only this time, the NGOs have introduced a much stronger monitoring system to make sure the aid does not go to the North Korean military.
The Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation plans to send a team of delegates to Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province, on Wednesday to confirm whether the flour it sent a day earlier has been distributed to nurseries, kindergartens and children’s hospitals as promised. The KCRC plans to send a total of 2,500 tons of flour aid to the North by the end of this month.
Four members of another aid group named Okedongmu Children in Korea also crossed the inter-Korean border Tuesday to offer 63 tons of flour and medicine to Nampo, South Pyongan Province.
On Wednesday, Caritas International Korea, run by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, is scheduled to send 100 tons of flour to a hospital in North Hwanghae Province, in addition to the 100 tons it delivered last week.
Although the South Korean government has no plans to offer aid to the North yet, it will review more nongovernmental groups’ aid plans, Unification Ministry officials said.
The Seoul government is also mulling whether to provide emergency aid for flood victims in the North.
After the heavy rainfall last week, ministry officials have said they were “on the watch” as international relief groups began offering emergency aid to the North.
North Korea has asked for additional food aid from the European Union, a former member of the European parliament was quoted as saying by a U.S. broadcaster Tuesday.
Glyn Ford said the senior North Korean officials he met during his trip to the impoverished nation last month wanted additional food aid from the EU, Voice of America reported.
The North had requested the EU offer 100,000 tons of food aid in January, but the EU decided to send a much smaller amount of emergency aid ― about 20,000 tons of rice, corn and beans worth 10 million euros.
Ford said he visited various facilities in the North including an orphanage in Hamheung on recommendation of Kim Yong-il, chief of the international department of the North Korean Workers’ Party, and confirmed the serious condition of food shortage although it wasn’t as bad as what he saw in 1997 when the country was struck by its worst famine.
The North also wants the EU to offer support related to agriculture, health and development of renewable energy such as tidal power, Ford said.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)