North Koreans work in the fields near the North Korean city of Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, June 24 (UPI) -- South Korea said it is willing to provide assistance to North Korea if drought conditions worsen in the secluded country.
Seoul's recently appointed unification minister, Hong Yong-pyo, told reporters Wednesday that a lending hand could be a launching point for future cooperation, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
"Both [North and South Korea] are facing difficulties due to drought, but what about one side helping the other that is less better off, then later working together on what needs to be done," Hong said.
Hong said Seoul is always open for dialogue.
The trick, however, is finding a way to make a meeting a reality, the South Korean official said.
North Korea is battling the worst drought in 15 years, according to South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh.
Hong said the North began facing a critical water shortage in 2014, when North Korea reservoirs registered lower than normal water levels.
In May, Curtis Melvin of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said the bottom of lakes and reservoirs were exposed at a total of 124 locations in North Korea, including a lake adjacent to Kim Jong Un's vacation house.
South Korea's solutions to North Korea's oncoming crisis could entail sending water pumps and seedlings for planting.
Dry weather has prevented rice seedlings from firmly taking root to grow, Hong said. In May, a critical month for much-needed rain, precipitation in North Korea reached just 57 percent of last year's levels.
North Korea's KCNA said in an announcement the drought facing the country is the worst in 100 years, an exaggeration that has been routinely used, The Washington Post reported.
In 2001, North Korea reported a drought that was the worst imaginable – a dry spell that it claimed was the worst in a 1,000 years.