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North Korea turns down $11 million of food aid from South

Food insecurity in North Korea remains a concern, the World Food Program noted in its November early warning analysis published with the Food and Agricultural Organization. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Food insecurity in North Korea remains a concern, the World Food Program noted in its November early warning analysis published with the Food and Agricultural Organization. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- North Korea has rejected South Korean food assistance through the World Food Program, according to a South Korean press report.

Donga Ilbo reported Monday Pyongyang recently turned down a South Korea-funded donation of 50,000 tons of rice. Seoul's unification ministry is also planning to recover the cost of the project, or $11.77 million, from the U.N. agency, the report said.

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"Through the WFP [Seoul] has pursued the donation of 50,000 tons of rice," South Korean ministry spokesman Yoh Sang-key said Monday. "There have been no changes in [North Korea's] response."

Yoh also said the government is in discussions with the WFP to redeem the cost of the project.

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Seoul has struggled to resume talks with Pyongyang since the coronavirus pandemic. President Moon Jae-in has proposed economic cooperation and reconnecting railroads across the demilitarized zone.

The North has rejected all offers. In June, the Kim Jong Un regime demolished the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, a symbol of cooperation between the two Koreas.

South Korea decided to deliver the rice through WFP in June 2019. The multimillion-dollar project was the biggest donation to the North since 2010, when Seoul sent the North 5,000 tons of rice, according to the Donga.

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Food aid was suspended after 2010, the year a South Korean warship was torpedoed and North Korea shelled a remote South Korean island.

A South Korean unification ministry source who spoke to the Donga said the government decided to seek cost recovery because local laws prohibit the cost of unexecuted projects to be carried over to the next fiscal year.

North Korea has historically denied receipt of South Korean aid and champions "self-reliance" in agriculture and economic development.

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On Monday, North Korean state media reported thousands of homes have been built in North Hamgyong Province in an area affected by heavy flooding this summer.

Officials said the "benevolence of Kim Jong Un" is the source of the new homes, according to Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

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