South Korea gives fertiliser aid to communist neighbour

Click to follow
The Independent Online

South Korea has decided to donate 200,000 tons of fertiliser to North Korea, hoping that would help reopen a stalled dialogue with the impoverished, communist country.

South Korea has decided to donate 200,000 tons of fertiliser to North Korea, hoping that would help reopen a stalled dialogue with the impoverished, communist country.

"The fertiliser will show that we want to continue reconciliation," said Kim Hong–jae, a spokesman at South Korea's Unification Ministry.

But wary of criticism from government opponents that Seoul is ceding too much, Kim called the fertilizer – worth US$50 million – humanitarian aid the North needs to help ease its food shortage.

The decision at a National Security Council meeting came a week after North Korea requested 200,000 tons of free fertiliser ahead of the rice–planting season that begins in mid–May.

South Korea plans to finish the shipment by early June.

Last year, South Korea gave North Korea 300,000 tons of free fertiliser just before the two sides held their first–ever summit in June.

Leaders of the two Koreas agreed to work toward reunification, and reconciliation blossomed between the countries. But talks have been suspended in the past month, apparently because the Pyongyang is angry about tougher talk toward the North by new US President George W Bush.

In March, Bush told South Korean President Kim Dae–jung that he was skeptical of North Korea and would not immediately resume talks with the communist country.

Under its policy of engagement, South Korea gave North Korea US$110 million worth of government aid last year, including 600,000 tons of food. Civilian donations totalled US$35 million.

North Korea has depended on outside help to feed its 22 million people since 1995.

The Korean peninsula was divided into the communist North and the pro–Western South at the end of World War II in 1945. Their 1950–53 war ended without a peace treaty.

Comments