The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) has asked its ecumenical partners for further humanitarian assistance to North Korea, expressing concern over the north’s chronic food shortages.

“This year, the vegetable crop is in very short supply due to heavy rains and flooding and frigid weather in the winter,” said the council's general secretary, the Rev. Kim Young Ju, in a July 18 letter. “The people’s daily ration has also been reduced by one third. We are deeply concerned that children are growing up with this food crisis and with malnutrition.”

“Following up our NCCK last shipment of 172 tons of flour in June, the [North] Korean Christian Federation (KCF) has requested an additional 480 tons of flour for children in nurseries and kindergartens in eight new areas in North Korea,” he noted.

On July 20, the U.N. World Food Program reported that the flooding added a new challenge for North Koreans, many of whom are already going hungry as food supplies run thinner and thinner. It also said that children in particular remain highly vulnerable to malnutrition.

“We are also deeply concerned by continued worldwide economic sanctions and by a dramatic decrease in humanitarian assistance by the international community,” Kim said.

On June 27, the World Council of Churches reported that the steering committee of the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reconciliation, Reunification and Development in the Korean Peninsula, which is linked to the NCCK, called on churches and the ecumenical community to advocate and lobby governments, the United Nations and the European Union to end the current strategy of using food as a political weapon to isolate the North Korean government.