World Food Program reaches out to South Korea amid crises

April 23 (UPI) — North Korea‘s food situation was a topic of discussion between Seoul and the World Food Program late Friday, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry.

Seoul’s top diplomat Chung Eui-yong spoke to World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley by phone and addressed overcoming the humanitarian crises together, Newsis and Yonhap reported.

Beasley, who accepted the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the WFP in December, evaluated South Korea’s role in responding to major humanitarian crises amid COVID-19.

The WFP chief could be seeking South Korean assistance for Afghanistan, reports said. The WFP has said nearly 17 million people in the country are food insecure.

Chung and Beasley also discussed the food situation in North Korea, and agreed to “close cooperation” to improve the humanitarian situation in the isolated country.

The WFP has raised concerns about delays in food aid to North Korea.

In February, the agency said assistance for North Korean children and pregnant women was not making its way across the border.

U.N. officials also have been banned from monitoring food distribution in the North, where strict measures have prevented other international aid workers from gaining access to the population during the pandemic.

The WFP in response had warned in a revision to its North Korea Strategic Plan that its operations in North Korea could be suspended.

“WFP will opportunistically use windows in which food imports are allowed to replenish and optimize in-country stocks and mitigate against import delays,” the organization said.

“However, there is a significant residual risk that, should food imports not be possible, operations will cease in 2021.”

South Korea’s unification ministry said earlier this year North Korea could be facing a food shortage of more than 1 million tons.

Last year’s typhoons led to a 200,000- to 300,000-ton supply shortage in North Korea, Unification Minister Lee In-young said.