South Korean relief groups should find their own ways to give food aid to North Korea if the political climate is not favorable to such humanitarian work, a German aid worker said Sunday.
"South Korea's relief agencies should seek any possible ways to send food aid to North Korea if it is emergency aid. I feel sorry because they are not making such efforts," Wolfgang Gerstner, German representative for international aid group Caritas, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
The 54-year-old veteran aid expert is in South Korea after wrapping up his latest visit to North Korea from June 6-11. He went on field trips to several cities ahead of beginning a solar energy greenhouse project supported by the German government later this year.
Caritas International launched the first international program from the private sector to aid North Korea in 1995. The group has spent $33.8 million on relief efforts there.
"West Germany never stopped humanitarian aid to East Germany even during the time when they had political debates. The South Korean government should allow private sectors to offer relief aid regardless of political disputes," Gerstner said.
Regarding the food situation in the communist neighbor, he said, "North Korea is always short of food." He didn't give further details, citing a lack of information.
North Korea, which has relied on outside assistance to feed its population of 24 million, has stepped up calls for food aid in recent months as its economic woes have deepened in the wake of sanctions for provocations, including last year's two deadly attacks on the South.
South Korea holds a negative view on the possible resumption of aid to the North because it could undercut international pressure on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs and take responsibility for the attacks.
South Korea accuses North Korea of sinking its warship, the Cheonan, near the tense maritime border in the Yellow Sea in March last year, but Pyongyang denies its involvement. Eight months later, the North shelled a South Korean border island, killing four people. (Yonhap)