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Cablegate: Rok to Send Flood Aid to North Korea

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #2458/01 2281150
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161150Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG IMMEDIATE 3428
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6048
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2986
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3103
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 8211
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP

UNCLAS SEOUL 002458

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

SHENYANG PLEASE PASS TO A/S HILL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PREF KN KS EIAID
SUBJECT: ROK TO SEND FLOOD AID TO NORTH KOREA


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The DPRK experienced heavy flooding from August 7-12, and
with more rain possible in the coming days for central North Korea,
additional flooding is possible. In contrast to previous years, the
DPRK has asked for relief assistance within days of the flooding.
Official damage assessments for the recent floods in the DPRK remain
incomplete partly because of the damage to the DPRK's communications
and infrastructure. The ROK will send approximately USD 70 million
in flood relief assistance to the DPRK, including over USD 6 million
in the first batch in the coming days.

----------------------
FLOOD DAMAGE ESTIMATES
----------------------

2. (U) According to an August 14 Ministry of Unification press
release, hundreds of North Koreans are reported to be dead or
missing following a week of heavy rain in Pyongyang and the
provinces of North Hwanghae, South Pyongan, South Hamgyeong and
Gangwon. The MOU press release states that at least 30,000
buildings housing 63,300 families and approximately 800 public
buildings have been destroyed from the flooding. In addition,
approximately 540 bridges and 70 sections of railway have been swept
away by the flood.

3. (U) Heavy rainfall in the Pyongyang area has flooded both the
Daedong and Botong rivers, submerging several places in the city
near the two rivers. Gangwon province was reported to be the
worst-hit area, with more than 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed and
100-200 people dead or missing.

4. (U) According to South Korean press reports, North Korean workers
and local military units have been mobilized to repair damaged
roads. The press reports also estimate that 50,000-100,000 hectares
of agricultural land were washed away by the heavy rains.

------------------------
WORST FLOODS IN 60 YEARS
------------------------

5. (SBU) According to Ministry of Unification Deputy Minister for
Information and Analysis Seo Sung-woo and Intelligence Coordinator
Choi Sangchol, DPRK government officials have told their ROKG
counterparts privately that the current flooding in the DPRK is the
worst in sixty years. The media has cited DPRK officials as saying
that the flooding is the worst in 40 years. Seo said that the DPRK
government is facing great difficulty getting an overall sense of
the flood damage -- apart from the devastating flooding of
Pyongyang's low-lying areas that has been shown on television --
because roads and communication links are cut off. Hence, Seo said
that his office estimates that the real level of damage is two to
three times worse than what has been reported so far. It was not
raining in the Pyongyang area on August 16, but more rain was
forecast for the central, heavily populated area of North Korea,
including North Hwanghae, Pyongyang, and South Pyongan provinces.
The Pyongyang-to-Wonsan highway, North Korea's main east-west route,
had washed out in several places, and Seo said that Kim Jong-il may
still be in South Hamgyong province because of the difficulty in
returning to Pyongyang. Seo stated that on August 10 Kim Jong-il
ordered military units to assist with flood relief, but that the
ROKG believed that military facilities had also suffered severe
damage, with some units lacking communication ability with the
central government.

6. (SBU) Asked about the DPRK's quicker response in requesting
international assistance after the recent floods, compared with
previous episodes of flooding such as in July 2006, Seo said that
the response time was a reflection of the seriousness of the
situation, with the DPRK government assessing that it needed
international help to recover. At the same time, Seo thought it
very unlikely that the DPRK would allow international NGOs access to
the damaged areas, in a manner consistent with its past behavior.

------------------
ROK TO PROVIDE AID
------------------
7. (SBU) MOU DG Yang Chan-suk told A/DCM Yun that MOU would announce
emergency assistance to North Korea on August 17. The first
shipment, valued at around USD 6.3 million (won 6 billion), would
consist of potable water, instant noodles, blankets, tents, choco
pies, outdoor cooking stoves, towels, and shoes. No separate
shipment of rice is planned, contrary to reports in some newspapers.
There will be follow-up shipments. The total value of emergency
assistance related to the recent floods is estimated at around USD
70 million, according to Yang.

8. (SBU) Press reports indicate that ROK officials are coordinating
with the South Korean Red Cross on the list of items and schedule
for delivery to the North. These items may include construction
equipment for reconstruction. Meanwhile, MOU is coordinating with
the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (KNCCK) -- an
organization made up of 59 South Korean humanitarian assistance NGOs
that have projects in the DPRK -- to support civilian efforts to
deliver emergency flood relief assistance to the North.

9. (SBU) Individual NGOs such as the South-North Sharing Campaign
are already planning to deliver emergency items through Nampo. Join
Together Society (JTS) also released its plans on August 16 to start
a fundraising campaign for North Korean flood victims and is
planning to provide 1000 tons of corn at the end of this month.

-------
COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) While the extent of the damage caused by the floods
remains unclear, the scope of the natural disaster is not: the
floods have severely damaged a large cross-section of the DPRK.
With the ROK set to provide relief assistance, a similar
contribution by the U.S. would be well-received in both the DPRK and
the ROK.

STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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