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☞ Issue 125
글씨크기 크게 글씨크기 작게 기사 메일전송 기사 출력
Government refuses to provide funding for aid to N. Korea

Annual tangerine and carrot shipment could be discontinued for the first time in 11 years

관리자 (2008/12/29 23:26)  

The Jeju provincial government’s call for funds to ship tangerines and carrots to North Korea met with refusal from the central government, which cited a lack of transparency in the distribution process and inappropriate timing. This is the first time in 11 years the South Korean government has halted the annual shipment of tangerines and carrots, which are distributed primarily to North Korean children, following a full-scale stoppage of government-sponsored humanitarian aid of food to the North.

On Friday, the Ministry of Unification said the South-North Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Consultative Committee “voted down a proposal to offer 2.04 billion won (US$1.56 million) to the Jeju provincial government to help it send tangerines and carrots to North Korea.” The committee, chaired by the unification minister and attended by a vice minister-level official from another government ministry is in charge of approving proposals related to inter-Korean exchange projects. The committee did approve a plan to provide a 7 billion won loan from the South-North Cooperation Fund to Hyundai Asan and its subcontractors.

Commenting on why the committee rejected the proposal to fund the shipment of tangerines and carrots, the unification ministry said, “It’s not appropriate for the government to provide funds given the current state of inter-Korean relations. It was also noted that there was a lack of consultation (with the North) about the transparency of the distribution process.” A Unification Ministry official said, “In particular, there was a call to stipulate how the distribution process should be monitored. But negotiations with the North on the distribution have not been finalized, so we can’t approve the funds by the end of the year.”

However, critics say the government’s refusal to provide funding for the shipment is excessive because it was made amidst ongoing negotiations on the matter of distribution with the North. The government is citing the need to monitor the distribution process, which has continued for 11 years. Kim Il-du, an official at the Jeju Center for Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation, which works with the Jeju provincial government to send tangerines and carrots to the North, said, “When we have sent the tangerines in the past, we have followed up by conducting a survey at one or two childcare centers. However, the government is now demanding that we report on the number of times and places we will visit. It was difficult to negotiate with the North because we suddenly had to increase the transparency standards.”

Since tangerines and carrots were first provided to the North in 1998, this is the first time provision of the aid has been difficult. The Jeju provincial government and civic organizations send some 10,000 tons of tangerines and carrots to North Korea every year, with the central government providing funds from the South-North Cooperation Fund for the aid shipment since 2001. Yoon Chang-seong, the chief of the Jeju provincial government’s tangerine division, said, “At this stage, it’s difficult to say whether we can send the shipment or not because time is running out and we have to consult with the farmers’ organizations that donated the goods.”

If the aid continues, there is likely to be a significant reduction in the amount sent. Goh Seong-joon, the secretary-general of the Jeju Center for Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation, said, “Even if the amount of aid is cut to 1,000 tons and the amount of funding provided is reduced, the provision of aid must continue. This situation is regrettable because, for children in North Korea, tangerines are not just a fruit, they are sometimes the only vitamins and nutrients available, and they also serve as flu medication.”

With one thousand tons of tangerines, the equivalent of about six to eight million tangerines, some three million North Korean children would receive two to three tangerines each.
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