The South Korean government announced on Wednesday that it is going to dispatch over 55,000 U.S. tons of rice to North Korea through the World Food Program (WFP).
This will be South Korea’s biggest food contribution to North Korea since 2008 and Seoul’s second aid package made in the past month in an effort to help North Korea’s food shortages and to promote better bilateral relations.
The South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said his government would cooperate with the United Nations (U.N.) agency to ensure that the food supplies can reach the North Korean people immediately.
Speaking in Korean, Kim stated that the time and scope for additional food deliveries to the North will be decided after assessing the results of the first round of support.
Seoul last week donated $8 million U.S. dollars to the World Food Program and the United Nations Children’s Fund for programs providing medical and nutritional aid to North Korean children and pregnant women.
One in five children in North Korea suffer stunted growth due to malnutrition because children are particularly affected by food shortages. In a statement issued by the WFP, the help from South Korea will support two million children, pregnant, and nursing mothers.
North Korea has frequently grappled to feed its population for a long time. About 10 million North Koreans or 40 percent of its population are facing “severe food shortages” due to one of North Korea’s worst harvests in a decade, according to a report from U.N. agencies last month.
Kim said the South Korean government and the WFP are assessing how to send the rice to North Korea. They have decided that sea transport will be more effective than air. However, the WFP estimates that it will still take at least two months to deliver the 55,000 tons of rice to North Korea.
Seoul’s food aid announcement comes a day before Chinese Communist leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Experts said that Xi is likely offer aid in food, fertilizer, and medicine.
South Korea donates 55,000 tons of rice to help North Korea’s food shortages and to promote better bilateral relations.