| Hong Sa-deok, chairman of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, said Friday that the organization will launch a campaign to send one million bags of fertilizer to North Korea. The planned campaign draws attention to whether South Korea will resume sending fertilizer to the impoverished North after a nearly 7-year hiatus.
There has been understanding within the South Korean government that it is possible to provide the North with fertilizer, while it is difficult to send rice, which could be used to feed the North Korean military. "As the Park Geun-hye administration plans to win the heart of North Korean residents through inter-Korean agricultural cooperation, fertilizer assistance aimed at enhancing (the North`s) agricultural productivity has a humanitarian cause." The South Korean government plans to expand humanitarian assistance to the North and significantly increase agricultural cooperation with Pyongyang by setting up a council for the cause.
The council reportedly plans to provide the planned fertilizer assistance in March or April when the farming season begins. The South Korean Unification Ministry and the council said they had not officially discussed about the fertilizer assistance. However, many believe that Hong made the remarks after reaching a consensus with the government, considering that less than one month is left before the beginning of the assistance. This speculation is persuasive as Hong is an influential figure among politicians close to President Park Geun-hye.
The South Korean government said it was not considering any rice or fertilizer assistance to the North yet. But an official with the council noted that the government would be less burdened if private organizations create a consensus for fertilizer assistance and the government approves it.
"The council`s plan to provide fertilizer assistance is different from the government`s purely humanitarian aid for North Korean children and people in desperate need," said a spokesman for Seoul`s Unification Ministry. "But the government will make a concrete consideration if the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation makes a concrete plan and proposes it to the government."