South is top global donor to North so far this year: UN

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South is top global donor to North so far this year: UN

South Korea provided around $5.7 million in humanitarian aid to North Korea for 2020, making it the top global donor to Pyongyang so far by a wide margin, according to new United Nations data released Tuesday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha) reported a total of $7,750,821 has been contributed so far by the governments of South Korea, Switzerland and Germany to fund a variety of aid programs for North Korea this year.

Seoul made the single largest donation of $4 million to the World Health Organization to improve maternal and child health in the North, in addition to smaller packages through the Red Cross Society as disaster relief for typhoon damage.

Switzerland was credited for providing the second largest aid package at $1,352,166, aimed at helping North Korea with disaster mitigation, water sanitation and health. Germany’s contributions, totaling at $671,741, were to provide food security and medical assistance to North Koreans.

South Korea was also the largest aid provider to the North last year, after contributing $10 million of the approximately $40 million for North Korean aid to UN organizations and their partners.

According to the South Korean Unification Ministry’s own statistics, that contribution accounted for the vast majority of the government’s humanitarian aid to the North in 2019. When combined with contributions from private donors, around $23 million won was donated to the North - the highest North Korean aid figure from Seoul since 2010.

Notable donations included the approximately $8 million package South Korea gave to the World Food Programme and Unicef in June to provide emergency nutritional and medical assistance for children and pregnant women in the North. Severe food insecurity owing to an insufficient previous year’s harvest in the North prompted Seoul to try to send around 50,000 tons of domestically produced rice as food assistance, but the aid ultimately failed to materialize due to Pyongyang’s refusal to accept it.

While South Korea’s aid commitments to the North serve to bolster the Moon Jae-in administration’s continued efforts to demonstrate goodwill to Pyongyang, such donations are far from what may be necessary to satisfy the needs of approximately 10 million vulnerable people in the North.

According to Unocha’s Global Humanitarian Overview 2020, a report detailing aid priorities for countries in need this year, UN agencies and humanitarian partners will require around $107 million to provide urgent assistance targeted to around 5.5 million of the most vulnerable who are subject to chronic food insecurity and lack of access to essential services. The protracted humanitarian crisis in the country is unlikely to abate this year, the report said, particularly as a result of the persistent volatility surrounding the country’s geopolitical situation.

“External assistance will play a vital role in safeguarding and promoting the well-being of children and families,” the report read. “However, constraints for UN agencies and humanitarian partners to provide humanitarian assistance are likely to continue, both in relation to strict UN and bilateral sanctions, which have unintentionally impacted humanitarian operations, and from continued underfunding.”

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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