June 20, 2019 12:49
The Unification Ministry on Wednesday insisted it will donate 50,000 tons of rice to North Korea through an international agency. The decision comes even though Pyongyang has turned up its nose at the offer and it is unclear whether there is an urgent need for it.
The delivery by ship is going to cost more than W127 billion, which will be covered by South Korea (US$1=W1,176). Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said, "After close consultations with the World Food Programme, the government decided to deliver 50,000 tons of domestically grown rice to the North in consideration of the food situation there."
North Korea has complained of a food shortage to the UN while simultaneously boasting of how well-stocked its malls are, and the price of rice in North Korean markets has actually fallen. But Kim said, "We'll decide on the timing and scale of additional food aid to the North later based on the outcome of the shipment."
Seoul has been trying to use the donation as a carrot to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table since the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February collapsed. But there has been no response from the North.
Kim claimed there have been "a kind of trilateral talks" between Seoul and the WFP and the WFP and Pyongyang to figure out how to deliver the aid and North Korea's willingness to accept it.
The ministry is taking the precaution of sending polished rice instead of threshed rice that can be stored for a long time so the regime cannot stockpile it to save money for its arms program or for the military. The sacks will bear the inscription "Republic of Korea" to make it more obvious to outside observers if the rice is being misappropriated.
Some W27 billion will come from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund and about W100 billion from a special account held by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The amount is more than double the W60.8 billion the ministry allocated in the budget last year for food aid from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.
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