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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Increased access for operations and the need for greater transparency from the North Korean government remain top priorities for the World Food Programme (WFP)’s North Korea work, the organization’s executive director David Beasley said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference in Seoul following a four-day trip to the DPRK last week, the WPF chief said that while “we have greater monitoring and greater access than any time period that I’m familiar with,” there remain critical issues of concern.
The WFP director also said that his organization had conducted 1,800 site visits this year, and that he believed “what we saw on the ground represented the average of the DPRK.”
“While we did not see starvation, there are clearly issues of undernutrition or malnutrition,” he said, adding that the WFP continues to request greater access for their operations.
In meetings with DPRK officials while in-country, the WPF chief continued, he had stressed that further aid would have to be firmly linked to greater access to people and data.
“I was very clear with them… ‘if you don’t give us the information and the access we need, the chances of receiving funds necessary or food necessary to move the ball forward on food security is going to be a different game,’” he said.
“We want to be able, with authenticity and confidence, tell anyone around the world, any donor, that here’s our monitoring system, here’s what we’re doing; we feel confident and assured that the money, the food is going to where it should and where it has been intended to go.”
When asked by NK News if he had asked North Korean officials to contribute more state resources into resolving the country’s longstanding food shortages, Beasley answered that “they are, based upon the availability of yield, of productivity, in the agricultural usage of their land.”
Sanctions imposed last year restricting North Korea’s exports of various foodstuffs have led to suggestions that Pyongyang could reallocate those resources to its domestic population.
Beasley, however, was unsure whether sanctions have led to greater domestic distribution, responding that the source of some rice in a school he had visited during his trip had been domestic.
The WPF chief also made it clear during the Tuesday press conference that his trip was not linked to a pending summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.
“Political decisions are political decisions of those analyses, we’re not a part,” he said. “The WFP are not a part of the negotiating process for denuclearization.”
But he did say that North Korean denuclearization would likely result in an improved humanitarian situation on the ground.
“It’s going to be a tremendous journey. I’m hopeful that we’ll look back upon this time and say, ‘wow, we turned a corner.’ Denuclearization is taking place and there’s peace in this region.”
Beasley, a former governor of South Carolina, was confirmed as WFP director in late March last year.
The WFP’s 2018 budget for operations inside North Korea allocates USD$52 million for the calendar year, with the bulk of the money going towards strengthening access to food and USD$338,000 for disaster relief food assistance.
The report outlines the organization’s primary goals in North Korea, which includes improving access to nutrition for children, pregnant and lactating women, and increasing support for disaster victims and residents of disaster-prone areas.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News