중앙데일리

No massive rice aid to the North

Pyongyang had asked for a ‘goodwill gesture’ in return for holding reunions

Oct 19,2009
South Korea will not provide massive rice aid to North Korea in exchange for staging reunions for separated families, a high-ranking government official in Seoul said yesterday.

The official, requesting anonymity, told reporters that the South would only supply a small amount of corn or other crops if the North wanted to receive government-level aid from Seoul.

At the inter-Korean Red Cross talks held last Friday, the South asked that family reunions be held in November or early next year, but the North demanded a reciprocal “humanitarian” measure. The South Korean government noted that it marked the first time the North had directly asked for humanitarian help under the current Lee Myung-bak administration.

The official yesterday said the South government is only looking at the possibility of providing less than 50,000 tons of corn aid, rather than rice aid of up to 400,000 tons that the previous administrations have supplied.

“Giving that much rice or even fertilizer to the North would go beyond the boundaries of pure humanitarian aid,” the official said. “And that would run counter to the current administration’s policy on North Korea.”

The Lee Myung-bak government has suspended rice aid and has linked such aid to the North’s denuclearization efforts. At the start of the latest family reunions in late September, the North asked the South for “a goodwill measure” in response to the North’s agreeing to hold the reunions on its side of the border. In response, Seoul said it would not tie inter-Korean exchange to the separated family issues but that it would continue providing medicine and clothes for seniors and infants through NGOs.

The government official yesterday said ensuring transparency of distribution would be difficult if the amount of rice reached tens of thousands of tons. Making sure rice or other forms of aid properly reaches needy civilians is a key to adhering to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874. Adopted in the aftermath of the North’s second nuclear test in May, the resolution prohibits UN members from providing the North with assistance “except for humanitarian and developmental purposes directly addressing the needs of the civilian population.”

“We realize that the rice harvest in the North suffered this year from cold weather,” the official said. “But we would not rush to prepare a rice aid package just to have family reunions next month. We will listen to different opinions during the National Assembly audits of the Unification Ministry [this Friday].”


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]




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