The unification ministry said Thursday that it is considering redeeming the money it sent to the World Food Programme (WFP) for a plan to provide rice assistance to North Korea if there is no progress in the stalled project by the end of this year.
In June last year, the ministry announced the plan to provide 50,000 tons of rice to North Korea through the WFP and sent the organization 13.8 billion won ($11.6 million) to cover transportation, equipment and monitoring costs.
The plan, however, has since been stalled as the North rejected the assistance offer in protest over joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.
"We are making efforts to get the project off the ground with a plan to seek cooperation with North Korea through the WFP until the end of this year," a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
"In case the project is terminated without any progress this year, we will have consultations with the WFP in a way to redeem the money sent to the organization," he added.
Observers said that it is unlikely for North Korea to respond to Seoul's assistance offer given that inter-Korean relations chilled further recently since the North blew up a liaison office in its border town of Kaesong in June in anger over the sending of anti-Pyongyang leaflets by activists in the South.
North Korea is presumed to face chronic food shortage problems caused by extreme weather conditions and global sanctions. Last week's typhoon and recent heavy downpours are feared to make things worse as they hit hard the southwestern province of Hwanghae know as its key rice-producing zone. (Yonhap)