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North Korea Requests Emergency Flood Aid From United Nations

North Korea requested emergency supplies, including food, as it tries to recover from last month’s torrential rains and flooding, the United Nations said.

The North Korean government “requested that the UN release its pre-positioned emergency stocks, including food and fuel” after more than 100 people died and 100,000 lost their homes, Martin Nesirky, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, said yesterday in a statement on Ban’s website. Nesirky didn’t say whether supplies will be provided.

North Korea needs immediate food assistance and better access to clean water to avoid diseases, the UN resident coordinator’s office in the capital, Pyongyang, said in an e-mailed report yesterday after making two visits with the Red Cross and other NGOs on July 31 to the three most affected counties.

Natural disasters more severely affect the communist nation, which has suffered for decades from chronic food shortages, economic mismanagement, and growing isolation from the international community because of its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

The UN expanded sanctions against North Korea for firing a long-range missile on April 13, a test that failed. The launch cost North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong Un a deal with the U.S. for 240,000 metric tons of food that was promised in exchange for a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.

South Korea isn’t considering any aid to address North Korea’s flood damage, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo Jin said today.

Rainy Season

North Korea’s rainy season began on July 18 as Typhoon Khanun struck the Korean peninsula, hitting northwestern coastal areas the hardest. Torrential rains and flooding between July 18 and 24 inundated or washed away tens of thousands of homes, roads, farmland and embankments. The monsoon season set in after the country’s worst drought in a century threatened wheat, barley and potato harvests.

Heavy rains on July 29 and 30 further destroyed or damaged more than 4,900 homes and flooded 8,530 others, leaving 21,370 people homeless, the official Korean Central News Agency said yesterday. More than 179,000 tons of coal were washed away, and scores of coal mine pits inundated northeast of Pyongyang, KCNA said in a separate report.

Damage to the mining industry endangers the nation’s ability to export its underground minerals, one of the few legitimate ways for the impoverished regime to earn foreign currency. Last year, North Korea exported $1.2 billion of minerals, 97 percent of which went to China, North Korea’s biggest trade partner and ally, according to a June 1 report by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency in Seoul.

North Korea doesn’t report economic statistics.

About 16 million of North Korea’s 24 million people suffer from chronic food insecurity, high malnutrition rates, and deep-rooted economic challenges, Jerome Sauvage, the UN resident coordinator in Pyongyang, said in a June 12 statement. As many as 2 million people have starved to death since the mid-1990s.

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