US Envoy Voices Concerns Over NKorea Food Aid Distribution

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues. Photo by: U.S. Mission Geneva

North Korea should address the United States’ standing concerns about aid distribution if the donor country is to provide food assistance to the reclusive Asian nation, according to a senior U.S. official who recently visited North Korea on a food security assessment mission.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human right issues, and Jon Brause, a senior U.S. Agency for International Development official, were in North Korea from May 24 to May 28 with a team of experts to assess the food security situation there.

>> US Sends Team to Assess North Korea Food Security Situation

“If the team determines there is a legitimate humanitarian need, [North Korea] must first address our serious concerns about monitoring and outstanding issues related to our previous food program,” King told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday (June 2).

U.S. humanitarian workers who were expelled by North Korea in 2009 left behind some 20,000 metric tons of food assistance whose distribution the United States wanted to monitor, Agence France-Presse reports.

King said should the United States decide to restart its food aid program in North Korea, it would adopt strict guidelines such as deploying Korean-speaking U.S. supervisors to monitor delivery and avoiding distributing food aid in bulk.

The United States would not provide rice or other kinds of food desirable for the military or political elite and instead focus on nutrition programs and food items that are harder to divert, King added.

South Korea’s position

South Korea has voiced opposition to the resumption of U.S. food aid to North Korea, King told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“They would prefer that we not provide food assistance. On the other hand, they allowed NGOs in South Korea to provide food on their own,” King said, as quoted by AFP.

Read more about U.S. development aid.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.