S. Korea to contribute US$20 million to WFP to help N. Korea


South Korea said Monday it will provide US$20 million worth emergency food aid to North Korea through the U.N. World Food Program.

The latest South Korean Korean food aid to North Korea through the Rome-based U.N. agency is separate from 400,000 tons of rice it plans to ship to its communist neighbor in the coming months, the Unification Ministry said.

The list and amounts of the South Korean aid, fixed after consultations with the WFP, includes 12,000 tons of corn, 12,000 tons of bean, 5,000 tons of wheat, 2,000 tons of flour and 1,000 tons of powdered milk, the ministry said in a statement.

“We will make efforts to facilitate food aid to North Korea via WFP and improve efficiency through assessment,” it said.

It is the first time since 2004 that South Korea has decided to provide food aid to the North via the WFP. International tension over the North’s nuclear has discouraged South Korea and other countries to help the North.

South Korea resumed shipment of fertilizer and other emergency aid to the North in March. In late June, it sent 10,500 tons of rice to the North as part of its promise last year to help the North recover from flood damage.

South Korea suspended all types of food and fertilizer aid to North Korea after the North conducted missile tests in July and a nuclear bomb test in October. But in high-level talks in March, the two sides agreed to put all inter-Korean projects back on track.

Inter-Korean relations have gotten a new boost from North Korean moves to honor its side of a Feb.13 six-party agreement to denuclearize itself. Last week, it invited back U.N. nuclear inspectors to discuss measures to monitor its planned shutdown of its weapons-related nuclear facilities.

A weak harvest in 2006, disastrous flooding and a 75 percent fall in donor assistance have combined to deal a severe blow to the North’s chronic food shortages, WFP officials said.

According to outside analysts, North Korea’s food supplies may fall one third of its needs this year if South Korea and other countries withhold aid.

Data from the WFP and South Korea’s Unification Ministry show that the North will need between 5.24 million tons and 6.47 million tons of food this year. Depending on the weather, the availability of fertilizer and other factors, the country may only be able to produce 4.3 million tons of food by itself in 2007, the report said.


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