Saturday, September 11, 2010

Food aid for North Korea could benefit South Korean farmers

Domestic farming groups in South Korea, sitting on stockpiles of surplus rice, turned hopeful on the news that North Korea was requesting rice aid from South Korea. The central and local governments also have to worry about running out of silos to store the swelling supplies of rice.

The ruling party has good reasons to suggest the resumption of rice aid to North Korea even though cross-border ties have been severed following the North’s attack on the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in March.

While South Korea battles with excess, our impoverished neighbors in the North face dire shortages of food. No matter how strong Kim Jong-il believes himself to be, he cannot leave his people to go on starving.
If Kim came up with the idea of seeking aid from South Korea after his recent visit to China, we may even anticipate a breakthrough in the frozen bilateral relations. Asahi Shimbun editor in chief Yoichi Funabashi, upon returning from China, believes Kim promised Beijing leaders that Pyongyang will act more flexibility toward South Korea and the United States.

It may be an overstatement to say that North Korea’s latest aid request for rice and heavy equipment suggests a turning point in the recalcitrant country’s policy toward South Korea. But it can be a start.

The provision of aid at this stage could indeed help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

[ JoongAng Ilbo]

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