N. Korea’s powerful commission in vanguard of flood recovery operations

Sohn suk-joo

North Korea’s most powerful organization is leading efforts to clean up damage from heavy floods and restore the country’s infrastructure, the North’s state media reported Wednesday.

The National Defense Commission (NDC), the highest decision-making body under the communist country’s constitution that was revised in 1997 to reflect its “songun” or military first policy, supervises relief operations involving military forces and equipment.

“We’ve achieved recovery and restoration by appealing to party, government and labor officials to go out to damaged areas under the guidance of the National Defense Commission,” Kim Kyong-san, a senior official of the Pyongyang Railway bureau, said in an interview with Radio Pyongyang.

According to North Korea watchers, North Korea’s cabinet has usually spearheaded flood relief efforts in the communist country in the past. The NDC’s involvement signifies the extent of the damage and is also meant to speed up restoration ahead of the summit between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who leads the commission, they said.

Meanwhile, North Korea is in the final stages of restoring the railway line in Pyongyang.

“The Pyongyang railway line is fundamental in connecting the country to the east and west. All workers have labored hard and are urged to do more at the final stage,” Kim Kyong-san said.

Devastating floods are believed to have destroyed a revised 14 percent of the North’s farmland, South Korean officials said. South Korea, other countries and international agencies are extending a helping hand to the North.

The number of dead and missing is estimated at more than 300, with the homeless numbering about 300,000. An estimated 46,580 homes of 88,400 families were destroyed or damaged, according to the North’s media.

This year, South Korea is providing 400,000 tons of rice to the North, while it plans to send 7.1 billion won (US$7.5 million) worth of relief goods to North Korea.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang requested more help from the South, and South Korea is considering what to offer in response to the North’s plea for construction materials and heavy equipment.

The severe flood damage caused the two Koreas to postpone their second-ever summit, originally scheduled to be held late this month, until early October. Their leaders are to meet Oct. 2-4 in Pyongyang.

According to North Korean officials, the expressway linking Pyongyang and Kaesong has been damaged by heavy flooding, interfering with transportation. Roh plans to travel to Pyongyang via the overland route, and South Korean officials expressed hope that the expressway will be restored before the summit takes place.


Comments are closed.