DPRK refusing official food aid

Red Cross In S. Korea Says North Rejects Aid
Washington Post
Kwang Tae Kim
Associated Press
Thursday, August 3, 2006; Page A18

SEOUL, Aug. 2 — The South Korean Red Cross said Wednesday that its North Korean counterpart had rejected an offer of aid for flood victims.

North Korea “expressed thanks for Seoul’s offer” but said “it will handle the recovery efforts from recent floods by itself,” a senior North Korean Red Cross official said, according to the South Korean Red Cross.

Floods caused by heavy rains in mid-July killed at least 154 North Koreans and left more than 127 missing, according to the United Nations. North Korea’s official media have said the disaster caused hundreds of deaths and cut off roads, bridges, railroads and communications.

However, the Good Friends group, a Seoul-based aid organization for North Korean refugees, said in a statement Wednesday that about 10,000 people were dead or missing and 1.5 million were left homeless by the floods.

The project coordinator for Good Friends, Lee Seung Yong, declined to identify sources for the information, but previous reports of activities in North Korea from the group have since been confirmed.

North Korea has relied on foreign donations of food since the 1990s, when natural disasters and decades of mismanagement led to the deaths of as many as 2 million people.

South Korea, a key provider of rice and fertilizer to the North, recently suspended aid shipments to protest the county’s refusal to discuss its missile launches in early July. The tests drew international condemnation and raised regional tensions.

North Korea protested the South’s decision and cut off government-level exchanges. But civilian-level exchanges remain intact, leading the North to seek civilian assistance from the South for flood victims while rejecting the offer of aid from the government-run Red Cross.

The South’s Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, which is composed of civic groups and ruling Uri Party members and is partly funded by the government, said it would send aid to the North by next weekend. It said the aid would probably be accepted but declined to give details.

JTS Korea, a private relief agency based in Seoul, also said Tuesday that it would ship emergency goods to the North. The agency’s spokeswoman, Hyun Hee Ryun, said North Korea had specified what kind of supplies it needed, suggesting that the aid would be accepted.

N. Korea declines aid from Red Cross after flooding
Korea Herald

North Korea, which was hit by torrential rain and flash floods last month, declined offers of aid from the International Red Cross and its South Korean branch, an official said.

“We asked the North Korean government what it would need in terms of relief aid to help in their efforts to recover after last month’s heavy rains,” said Kim Hyung-sup, a spokesman at South Korea’s National Red Cross. “North Korean authorities replied that while they appreciate the offer, they are able to manage on their own. I seriously doubt that.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross – to which the South Korean Red Cross belongs – also offered aid, which North Korea declined, Kim said.

Hundreds of people are dead or missing in North Korea after the rains, the country’s official Korean Central News Agency said on July 21. Floods last week also damaged farmland, tens of thousands of shelters and public buildings. Hundreds of roads, bridges and railways were destroyed, it said. South Korea was also hit and damages in the South are estimated at around 2 trillion won ($2.1 billion).

North Korea canceled two festivals this month, citing relief efforts. It postponed its Arirang Festival, featuring its mass games, as well as an annual festival with South Korea to mark their independence from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II.

“The biggest problem for North Korea will be food shortages, especially in winter and next year, because most of its farmlands were flooded,” Kim said. “Water and medical supplies are likely to be in demand, either because of the wounded as well as concerns of infectious diseases that may spread in the aftermath of the rains.”

A South Korean civic group said Tuesday that it plans to provide emergency aid to North Koreans.

The Join Together Society, a humanitarian aid group in Seoul, said it will send eight TEUs filled with relief goods, including 100 tons of flour, to the North from Aug. 3-9. TEUs, or 20-foot equivalent units, are a measure of containerized cargo capacity.

It is the first time that a South Korean civic group is providing aid to the communist state since Seoul stopped all efforts in the wake of the North’s recent missile tests and its ongoing boycott of six-way nuclear talks.

North Korea has depended on outside aid since the 1990s. More than a million people have died from famine because of years of flooding, drought and economic mismanagement. One in three North Koreans is chronically malnourished and many are forced to scavenge for food, resorting to ferns, acorns, grass and seaweed.

International food aid for North Korea reached 1.08 million tons last year, the world’s second largest after Ethiopia’s 1.1 million tons, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. South Korea sent 394,000 tons of food aid to North Korea last year.

Daily NK:

It has been learned that serious damage has been incurred in North Korea due to heavy rain, which has also led to the cancellation of the Arirang festival.

Due to the heavy rain, hundreds of people have died, and 100,000 tons of food was lost. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that necessary food aid would amount to 830,000 tons between November 2006 to October 2007.

High production agruicultural areas such as Hwanghae and South Pyongan provinces have already complained about likely food shortages next year. North Korean traders from China said that, “due to the damage from the heavy rain, the whole country will face loses”. Many international organizations have voiced a desire to aid the North Korean people after learning of the flooding, keeping the missile conflict a separate issue.

Although international organizations, including the International Red Cross, have offered to aid the North Korean people, North Korea has refused the aid. The World Food Program (WFP) offered to provide 74 tons of food to the Yeungsan district of North Hwanghae province, but due to the WFP condition of monitoring distribution of the food aid, North Korea has refused to accept it.

It was also confirmed that North Korea refused aid offered by the International Red Cross offices in Europe and the U.S., and has not yet responded to an offer of aid made by the Korean National Red Cross. It seems unlikely that the North will accept the aid, as the government has firmly refused external aid, in order to keep the international community ignorant to the situation in the North.

If the North Korean government continues to take this attitude, the number of victims will no doubt increase, particularly as the international community increases the level of isolation against North Korea.

Last December, when the U.N. General Assembly passed the North Korean Human Rights Resolution, North Korea asked the U.N. office in North Korea to withdraw. During that time, when North Korea refused food aid from the WFP, it was criticized as using its people as hostages to pressure the international community.

The South Korean government officially took the stand that it would not aid North Korea. Although some people have said that ignoring the need for aid is a bad decision, others believe that sending aid when the North did not request it would only it would only invite misunderstanding.

If the government rushes to aid North Korea, it will be criticized for supporting the North, while leaving domestic flood sufferers to fend for themselves.

However, many people point out that even though they maintain an alliance against the North in regard to the missile conflict, the South Korean government should still offer humanitarian assistance. Cooperation through international organizations, such as the WFP, with monitoring of distrubution, could ensure that the North Korean people receive the aid that they need.

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