The government is taking administrative steps necessary to carry out its decision to send food aid to North Korea, with a view to completing the procedures by the end of this week, a unification ministry official said Monday.
Last week, the ministry announced the plan to send 50,000 tons of rice in aid to the North via the World Food Programme (WFP) to help the impoverished state address worsening food shortages. The WFP will spearhead its shipment to North Korea, along with its distribution and necessary monitoring there.
"Our internal procedure for the food assistance plan is currently under way. So is the review by the inter-Korean exchange committee," Lee Sang-min, the ministry's spokesperson told reporters during a regular press briefing. "We aim for its approval later this week, if possible."
The committee of government officials and civilian experts is in charge of reviewing and approving inter-Korean projects.
It marks the first time for South Korea to provide rice to North Korea since 2010, when it sent 5,000 tons to support its efforts to recover from flood damage. It will also be the first time Seoul has sent locally harvested rice to the North through an international agency.
The government plans to spend around 127 billion won ($107.9 million) on securing the rice and aims to send it to the North before the end of September.
North Korea has been faced with worsening food shortages apparently caused by crushing global sanctions and years of unfavorable weather conditions.
The WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported, based on a visit to North Korea, that the country's crop output last year hit the lowest level since 2008, adding that an estimated 10 million people, about 40 percent of the population, are in urgent need of food.
In a separate move, Seoul recently donated $8 million to the WFP and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) for their projects in North Korea to support the nutrition of children and pregnant women and address their health problems. (Yonhap)