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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Thursday said it would seek to deliver a planned $8 million worth of humanitarian assistance to North Korea at the “earliest possible time.”
In comments that come as a prominent Seoul-based NGO launches a fundraising campaign to send “emergency” food aid to the DPRK, an MOU official told media that the government has been discussing a project proposal for the planned $8 million with several international organizations.
Seoul has received a draft of the humanitarian aid plans from those agencies, the MOU said, adding that the sides will continue to exchange opinions on the project.
The government “has not yet officially accepted” the plans, the official said, expected to see Seoul provide funds to the DPRK through the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Friday saw the South Korean government confirm that it would push ahead with plans to finance a WFP nutrition support program for children and pregnant women and a UNICEF maternal and child health care project in North Korea.
The MOU official on Thursday stressed that neither of these projects would directly provide rice to North Koreans, reiterating that the government will “execute humanitarian aid at an early date taking into account the urgency.”
“Our stance is to carry out the procedure necessary at the government-level at the earliest possible time,” they added, acknowledging that the South Korean government has been working together with UN agencies to advance the date of humanitarian aid.
It typically takes three to six months to complete the delivery of this kind, the official continued, taking into account the time taken to purchase the goods after the funds are delivered.
“In light of the urgency, our idea is to bring [the procedure] forward as much as we can, and we have been having discussions with international organizations towards this end,” they explained.
The South Korean government is also required to obey other protocol, the official explained, including seeking approval from the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council.
And while the South Korean government remains reluctant to comment on when precisely the aid will be delivered, the prominent South Korean NGO Korean Sharing Movement (KSM) on Wednesday launched a fund-raising campaign calling on the public to donate to an “emergency food aid campaign for North Korean children.”
The move is in line with the KSM’s “BaB (Bread and Balance) campaign” carried out regularly since 2010, the organization said, asking the South Korean public to help the North overcome an ongoing period of food poverty ahead of July’s harvest.
The BaB campaign, in particular, aims to provide bread and other daily necessities to children in particularly troubled regions, including North Hamgyong province and other areas along the Sino-DPRK border.
The campaign comes in the wake of a UN assessment earlier in the month that over 10 million North Koreans are food insecure, with KSM among several South Korean NGOs seeking to send aid to the DPRK.
Last Tuesday saw several NGOs and civil groups issue an “appeal for participation in urgent food assistance for North Korean citizens,” laying out plans to raise “funds from all walks of life and national donations” to deliver urgent food assistance to vulnerable people in the North.
No specific plans for that aid’s delivery have been confirmed, however.
The South Korean government is also engaged in working-level preparations towards sending a separate shipment of food aid to the DPRK, while at the same time “continuing to collect public opinion sufficiently to secure their support.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News