South Korea to work on humanitarian aid to North

South Korea is in discussions with the United Nations’ World Food Program to cooperate on humanitarian aid to North Korea.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (L) shakes hands with David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, during their meeting in Seoul on Wednesday. Photo by Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Yonhap
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (L) shakes hands with David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, during their meeting in Seoul on Wednesday. Photo by Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Yonhap

World Food Program executive director David Beasley met with Seoul’s unification minister Cho Myoung-gyun in Seoul to address some of the issues faced by ordinary North Koreans, South Korean news service Newsis reported Wednesday.

The 45-minute discussion included an exchange of views on malnutrition in North Korea, vulnerable segments of the North Korean population and projects Seoul and the U.N. agency could work on in order to find solutions, according to the report.

Seoul announced a plan on Sept. 21 to provide $4.5 million in support to the World Food Program, and its project in North Korea that aims to deliver nutrition-enhanced foods to children and pregnant North Korean women.

South Korea’s unification ministry said the two sides agreed to “cooperate closely” on humanitarian aid.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also met with WFP officials on Wednesday, said the time was right for South Korea to do more to help other countries alleviate hunger, Yonhap reported.

Ban, who considered running for president in early 2017, said South Korea was the recipient of “grain, food, textbooks and toys” from U.N. agencies more than five decades ago.

South Korea “became a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development after breaking out of extreme poverty,” Ban said.

Remarkable contrasts remain between the impoverished North and the wealthy South.

North Korea’s GDP per capita for 2015 was estimated to be $1,013, while in South Korea that number was estimated to be $27,195.

In May, the Food and Agricultural Organization said 10 million North Koreans are facing food shortages.

By Elizabeth Shim