Finally, grains of hopeNorth Korea has officially requested aid in the form of rice, cement and heavy equipment from the South after floods hit the country particularly hard. Pyongyang made the request by amending the original aid list - 10 billion won ($8.5 million) worth of instant noodles and medicine - proposed by the Korean Red Cross.
Regarding the request for rice, our government has become more flexible on the issue after previously saying it wouldn’t provide such support. A high-ranking official from the Unification Ministry said this week that the South will now agree to provide rice aid. The administration is also reportedly considering a separate aid request by the Red Cross in response to North Korea’s decision earlier this week to release seven South Korean fishermen it captured in waters near the border.
We hope that these steps will help melt the frozen relations between South and North Korea soon.
Along these lines, we support the administration’s willingness to provide rice aid to North Korea and feel that it should be delivered as soon as possible. As for the request for cement and heavy equipment, that’s still up for debate. But we think that it’s best if the administration provides needed materials and goods as long as such moves don’t violate sanctions imposed on the North by the United Nations Security Council.
This could provide us with an opportunity to improve relations, which deteriorated in the aftermath of the Cheonan incident.
North Korea’s official request for aid is very rare, and it likely reflects a dire situation. Millions of people are reportedly suffering from economic hardships and food shortages, which have been exacerbated by UN sanctions and shrinking assistance from the international community.
We believe that North Korea made the request with the thinking that it might help ease tension between the countries.
The North also might be thinking that improved relations could relieve some international pressure as the country prepares for a power succession.
There is still strong distrust toward the North in our society.
The North has long enjoyed bountiful aid from us, even while it raises the intensity of its military threats against the South.
Yet the current administration in Seoul should attempt to persuade the conservative faction of our society to back aid efforts, as policies revolving around pressure don’t benefit our national interests. We hope rice aid will pave the way for better relations with the North.