U.N. food agency chief meets with
S. Korean FM over N. Korea
SEOUL, Oct. 28, 2010
The chief of the U.N. food agency met with South Korea's foreign minister Thursday for talks expected to include an appeal for donations to help feed the hunger-stricken population in North Korea.
Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program (WFP), arrived Wednesday from Japan for a two-day visit as part of a four-nation Asian tour that will take her to China and North Korea later this week.
"We have quite a long history with (South) Korea. We really had the honor of standing with the people of Korea many decades ago when Korea was having its own battle against hunger and poverty," Sheeran said at the start of a meeting with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan.
She showed Kim a red cup that her agency uses for children in Africa, saying that she carries it with her to "remind me how vulnerable people are" and adding that some children "do not even have a cup of food."
Details of their discussions were not immediately available. But the WFP chief was expected to use the meeting to appeal for donations for its programs to provide food to vulnerable people in North Korea, such as children and pregnant women.
She was also scheduled to meet with the vice unification minister handling North Korea affairs.
The impoverished North has been suffering from chronic food shortages since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the mid-1990s. The isolated nation has relied on outside assistance to help feed its 24 million people.
The North's economic woes and food shortages appear to have worsened in recent years, as donations dwindled amid the global economic crisis and international sanctions following Pyongyang's nuclear test last year and this year's sinking of a South Korean warship.
South Korea, which used to ship massive food and fertilizer assistance to the North under liberal presidents, halted shipments since President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 with a policy to link large-scale assistance to progress in international efforts to end Pyongyang's nuclear programs.
In this week's Red Cross talks, the North asked the South for 500,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer, holding out the prospects of greater cooperation in humanitarian projects, such as reuniting families separated across the border since the 1950-53 Korean War.
But there is little chance of Seoul accepting the request.
Last week, the United Nations warned in a report that the North's food situation would worsen, saying this year's food production in the North would be nearly a fifth lower than last year's due to droughts and floods.
It said the North would need to import more than 1 million tons of food.
(c) Yonhap News