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Stock Crisis May Hamper Efforts To Help North Korea

South Korea’s Red Cross said Monday that it hopes to duplicate in 1998 the 100,000 tons of food it provided famine-stricken North Korea this year.

But as Red Cross officials from the two Koreas began aid talks in Beijing, there were concerns that the South’s economic crisis might hurt its ability to provide food relief to its communist neighbor.

“Now we are in a very difficult situation, but we would like to seek a contribution for the sake of humanitarianism and compatriotism,” said Lee Byung-woong, head of the South Korean delegation.

Chronic mismanagement of its collective agriculture and devastating floods and drought have caused a catastrophic food shortage in North Korea, a hard-line communist country.

The talks in Beijing were to review the aid program and discuss a new agreement for food deliveries, officials said.

South Korea’s currency lost half of its value this year as foreign investors scurried to withdraw their holdings from domestic markets and convert them into dollars. The key stock index also lost 50 percent of its value this year.

Lee said his side had presented a proposal for deliveries of food, clothing, medicine and other assistance, but he did not provide further details. The talks ended at midday with an agreement to resume today.


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