N. Korea's severe drought seen as having eased: Seoul
The Unification Ministry said Friday that a severe drought that hit North Korea appears to have considerably eased since June as rainfall has almost reached last year's level in many areas.
North Korea has been grappling with what it called the worst drought in 100 years, sparking concerns about food shortages. South Korea earlier predicted that the North's crop production could fall by as much as 20 percent if the lack of rain continues into early July.
The ministry said the dry spell seems to have eased in North Korea though several areas in the northeast and midwest provinces are still suffering from the drought.
"North Korea had suffered from severe drought across the nation until May. But it seemed that since June, the situation has considerably eased," Jeong Joon-hee, ministry spokesman, said in a press briefing.
"But some provinces such as Hwanghae and Hamgyeong provinces are still grappling with prolonged drought, which warrants a close watch," he added.
The ministry said that the average precipitation in May reached 54.5 percent of that recorded a year earlier. But in June, the rainfall increased to hit almost 90 percent of the level recorded in the same period last year.
Seoul earlier said that it is willing to provide support for North Korea in coping with the drought if the country makes a formal request. There has been no request from Pyongyang.
"Currently, the South government is not considering providing food aid to the North," said a ministry official, asking not to be named.
Touching on the joint industrial park, the ministry reiterated that pending issues related to Kaesong Industrial Complex should be resolved through dialogue between the two Koreas.
South and North Korea plan to hold talks on the joint operation of the complex next Thursday to discuss a prolonged dispute over the North's unilateral move to raise wages for its 55,000 workers there.
Pyongyang sent a notice to Seoul saying that it will strengthen its monitoring of South Koreans who move in and out of the complex.
The North is known to have expressed complaints over activities by South Koreans including possession of goods banned in the North such as USBs and newspapers, vowing to take punitive actions if found.
"The issue should be dealt with in accordance with the two sides' agreement and the related regulations. This is not a matter that one side handles unilaterally," Jeong added. (Yonhap)