South Korea Offers ‘Large-Scale’ Food Aid to North Korea in Exchange for Denuclearization

South Korea Offers ‘Large-Scale’ Food Aid to North Korea in Exchange for Denuclearization
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during an inaugural dinner at a hotel, after his inauguration ceremony at the new presidential office in Seoul on May 10, 2022. (Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

South Korea’s president has laid out the details of what he called an “audacious plan” to improve North Korea’s economy in exchange for complete denuclearization and “sustainable peace” in the Korean Peninsula.

Speaking at a ceremony commemorating South Korea’s independence from Japanese 1910–45 colonial rule, President Yoon Suk-yeol called on Pyongyang to embark on “a genuine and substantive process for denuclearization.”

Yoon pledged to provide Pyongyang with an economic plan that would “significantly improve North Korea’s economy and its people’s livelihoods in stages” if the Kim Jong Un regime stopped its nuclear program.

“We will implement a large-scale food program; provide assistance for power generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure; and carry out projects to modernize ports and airports for international trade,” he said.

Yoon also offered to help Pyongyang enhance its agricultural productivity, modernize hospitals and medical infrastructure, as well as implement international investment and financial support initiatives.

“Denuclearization of North Korea is essential for sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia, and around the world,” he remarked.

Yoon had earlier announced his offer to North Korea during his inauguration in May. The conservative leader sought a tougher stance on North Korea and a stronger U.S. security commitment to the country’s defense.
North Korea’s economy has suffered setbacks owing to border closures and persistent sanctions. The nuclear-armed nation also faced challenges in dealing with COVID-19 infections and blamed South Korea for spreading the virus.
South Korea and the United States have called on Pyongyang to denuclearize and return to diplomacy, a call that Pyongyang has ignored over what it calls "hostilities" from the United States and its allies.

South Korea to ‘Swiftly’ Improve Japan Ties

Yoon also pledged in his Liberation Day speech that he would “swiftly and properly improve” South Korea–Japan relations, which have been strained for decades as a result of wartime forced labor disputes.

He said the improved relations between the two countries are vital as they face “common threats that challenge the freedom of global citizens.”

“When Korea–Japan relations move towards a common future and when the mission of our times align, based on our shared universal values, it will also help us solve the historical problems that exist between our two countries,” Yoon said.

The foreign affairs ministers of both nations met in Tokyo on July 18 to discuss settling the dispute over restitution for South Koreans forced to labor in Japanese firms and military brothels under Japan's colonial rule.

Japan had argued that the issue was already resolved by a treaty signed in 1965.

South Korean foreign affairs minister Park Jin said that he would make efforts to find “a desirable solution” before a judgment on compensation payments, with both sides agreeing to seek an early resolution of the dispute.

The two ministers also agreed to strengthen trilateral cooperation with the United States against North Korea’s nuclear threats while maintaining diplomatic dialogue with Pyongyang, the South Korean foreign ministry said.