Kim Jong-un, new president of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, has taken the auspicious step of accepting emergency aid from neighboring Republic of [South] Korea; auspicious because until now, Kim has followed, even exceeded, the steps of his father, Kim Jong-Il in expressing disdain for the free nation to the south.
The offer of aid comes in the wake of floods and storms in June and July that destroyed a great part of this year’s grain harvest. Reports indicate that 200,000 North Koreans are homeless, about 600 are dead, and 161,000 acres of agricultural land rendered cropless. North Korea annually finds difficulty in feeding her population, even in the best of years.
North Korea’s formal response to the offer from Seoul came through the International Red Cross at Panmunjom village, near the militarized border. The message indicated an acceptance of the offer, but stated a requirement for complete and specific details in document form.
Kim Jong-un, new to his role of president, lost substantial aid from South Korea last year. While food aid at that time was offered, Pyongyang held out for replacing the food with building materials and equipment, and rice. The offer was withdrawn because South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had concerns that the supplies would be diverted to the military.
There has been some hesitancy in providing foods and staples to the North, in view of the belligerent nature of the North Korean missile and nuclear armament programs. In recent years, South Korea has been subjected to bombardment and killing from the North. An additional concern was the matter of the United States/South Korean military exercises carried out again this year in August. The North characterized these exercises a “rehearsal for war.”
In 2008 the South Korean administration halted aid, and repeated demands that Pyongyang cease nuclear proliferation.