S. Korea says no immediate plan for food, fertilizer aid to North

By 정주원
  • Published : Feb 17, 2014 - 13:22
  • Updated : Feb 17, 2014 - 13:51

South Korea has no immediate plan to provide food and fertilizer aid to North Korea in connection with their upcoming reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, an official said Monday.

Still, South Korea dangled the possibility of the aid to the North by taking into account inter-Korean relations, unification ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said in a regular briefing.

South Korea gave food aid worth 872.8 billion won ($823 million) to North Korea between 1995 and 2007, according to data posted on the ministry's website.

South Korea suspended its rice aid in 2008 when then conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office with a policy of linking assistance to progress in efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear programs.

"Currently, the government is not considering rice and fertilizer aid to North Korea in connection with the family reunions," though it can consider the issue by taking into account future inter-Korean relations, Kim said.

Food production in the impoverished North is estimated to have been around 5.03 million metric tons in 2013, up 5 percent from the previous year, the U.N. World Food Program said in November.

Still, the food security situation remains serious, with 84 percent of all households having borderline or poor food consumption, according to the U.N. food agency.

South Korea said the reunions are a first step toward improving inter-Korean relations, a stance that suggested that Seoul can provide the aid to the North later if the rival Koreas successfully stage the reunions at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North's east coast, from Feb. 20-25.

South Korea sent an advance team to the North to prepare for the reunions to help clear heavy snow that has blanketed the venue of the reunions.

Millions of Koreans remain separated since the Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Family reunions are a pressing humanitarian issue on the divided peninsula, as most of the separated family members are in their 70s and 80s, and wish to see their long-lost relatives before they die. (Yonhap)