Seoul Mulls Ways to Ensure Aid Reaches Needy N.Koreans

      September 14, 2010 11:58

      The government is considering sending rice flour and noodles to North Korea as aid for flood victims in a bid to prevent it from being diverted to the military, an official said Monday. The plans are being studied after the North asked for rice, cement and heavy equipment for flood relief operations.

      "Rice can be stored for a long time and is easy to divert to the military," the official said. "But rice flour or noodles are harder to store for longer and are more likely to be given to the victims instead of being transported to military warehouses."

      The government offered the North 10,000 tons of corn following the reunion of separated families on the occasion of Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving last year reportedly because this was less likely to be used for military rations. North Korean defectors say they were rarely given any rice supplied by the South, while rice bags with the lettering of the South Korean Red Cross stamped on were seen in military facilities close to the heavily armed border.

      During the famine in the late 1990s, the North received corn flour aid from the U.S which the authorities then distributed through ration stations, a defector recalls.

      But processing over 100,000 tons of rice into flour and other products may not be realistic as it would cost a lot of time and money, a Unification Ministry official said.

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