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Unification ministry reviewing ways to send food, fertilizer assistance to N. Korea

All News 11:44 March 23, 2021

SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry is conducting an internal review of ways to provide food and fertilizer to North Korea as humanitarian assistance, an official said Tuesday.

"We continue to conduct an internal review as it requires an evaluation of the situation at the North Korea-China border, the overall inter-Korean relations and whether the conditions are right to provide such assistance," a ministry official said.

"Our position remains the same over the issue, that we must provide food or humanitarian assistance when it is necessary. Currently, we are taking the opportunity to listen to the opinions of nongovernmental organizations and experts while evaluating the demand for humanitarian assistance to the North," he said.

Earlier, Unification Minister Lee In-young also said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that the South is ready to provide the North with a "sizeable" amount of food and fertilizer aid to the North.

North Korea was hard hit by back-to-back typhoons and flooding last summer, which presumably devastated major farming areas of the country already reeling from difficulties in securing outside help and other farming materials due to virus-prompted border closures.

The North has repeatedly rejected offers for help from South Korea to ease its food shortage amid chilled inter-Korean relations. Leader Kim Jong-un has also urged his officials not to receive outside aid, citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus into the country.

Unification Minister Lee has told lawmakers that the North appears to be faced with a food shortage of about 1.2 million to 1.3 million tons this year mainly due to damage from last year's heavy downpours. South Korea has been exploring various ways to provide food and fertilizer to North Korea, according to his ministry.

This undated photo, released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on Sept. 9, 2019, shows farmers picking up fallen rice at a paddy after the powerful Typhoon Lingling passed through the Korean Peninsula on Sept. 7. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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