Statistics Korea omits grain from N.Korean figures

Posted on : 2012-01-18 10:04 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Concerns about deteriorating relations, public opinion on food aid

By Choi Hyun-june
“With inter-Korean relations so tense, it is no longer possible for us to do the kind of North Korean grain production estimates that were possible under the previous administration,” a government official explained on Tuesday.
2010 production figures for rice, corn, barley, beans, and other major grains were left blank in a Statistics Korea report on major statistical indicators in North Korea. The numbers were included in statistical data released in 2008, 2009, and other years.
A Statistics Korea official said, “We made several requests to the organization in charge, but they didn’t provide materials, so we couldn’t print them.” The Rural Development Administration is responsible for investigating North Korean grain production. Early every year, it has estimated and released North Korean grain production figures for the previous year. Since 2011, however, it has failed to release figures.
A government official explained, “Since inter-Korean relations were decent during the previous administration, it was possible to go to the North and get samples to use as a basis for estimates.”
“With inter-Korean exchange all but completely halted under the current administration, the basis for releasing estimates has disappeared,” the official added.
Some observers said the decision was motivated by concerns that South Korean public support for food aid to North Korea could grow if low figures are presented. The argument is that there is no reason the kind of grain production estimates that were possible in 2008 and 2009, while the Lee administration was in office, would not be so for 2010 alone. Observers are also expressing bafflement at the fact that only agricultural products were omitted from estimates at a time when even the number of cars is being estimated in the area of industrial products.
Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, said, “Recently, food aid negotiations have been taking place between North Korea and the US, and I suspect the government may have decided not to announce [the estimates] because it was too concerned about public sentiment in South Korea.”
The North Korea figures released Tuesday also showed South Korea‘s per capita gross national income of $20,759 to be 19.3 times North Korea’s $174 for 2010.
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