[EDITORIALS]Bipartisan Rice Aid a Good Step

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[EDITORIALS]Bipartisan Rice Aid a Good Step

With the opposition Grand National Party's initiative of proposing the shipment of 300,000 tons of rice to North Korea, the ruling and opposition parties along with the government are for once together in their North Korea policy. The exact aid amount or method of delivery is yet to be confirmed and consultation with the North remains. Some suspect that the opposition, which had criticized the government for giving free aid to the North, has suddenly changed its stance to pursue a dual political line. But the bipartisan agreement on rice aid to the North might bring inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation to a new level providing relief to North Koreans and will set a good precedence for future North Korea policies.

The government should manage the situation in the future as well so that the encouraging phenomenon in which the GNP is leading the drive for rice aid to the North will be sustained throughout Seoul's North Korea policies. The GNP has in the past been critical of the government's policies toward the North. A look into the present situation makes that clearer. Unlike in the past, when the government unilaterally decided on aid to the North, the government explained to the opposition the North's request for rice aid at the fifth ministerial talks and asked for cooperation.

The opposition, in turn, made it easy for the government to decide on the aid by taking into consideration humanitarian aid to our brethren in the North and the resolution of our rice stock. North Korea policies should be pursued with bipartisan participation and cooperation in this way. Then the people will accede and the government policies will gain momentum.

Criticism may still be made that the aid is a free giveaway to the North because the price of rice in Korea is six times more expensive than in the international market such that 300,000 tons of rice would amount to 600 billion won ($464 million).

But given that we imported 500,000 tons of grain spending our foreign exchange reserve ($67 million) to provide aid to the North last year, it is the right choice to provide 300,000 tons of rice in stock. We should also agree with the North on ways to confirm the food aid distribution and to disclose all sources of suspicion related to rice distribution.
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