At a press briefing in central Seoul Tuesday afternoon, the World Food Programme's Executive Director David Beasley told reporters about his team's impressions of North Korea, based on their four-day visit to the North last week.
His team spent two days in Pyongyang, meeting key political figures like North Korea's ceremonial leader Kim Yong-nam, and spent the other two days visiting villages in the countryside.
The WFP chief said he could sense tremendous sense of optimism in the leadership and in the people in one of the most reclusive states in the world, saying they were granted more access, and more local cooperation than in past years.
He added that although cases of poverty and malnutrition still exist, he didn't see cases of starvation, which he used to witness in the North back in the 1990s.
"Going from village to village, we didn't see starvation. Clearly issues of under/mal nutrition. Very little mechanization. Very few paved roads. This is spring time. I saw men and women out in the fields working very structured, very organized, every inch of land being utilized, working with oxen, ploughs, shovels, hoes, manual labor and tools."
The WFP head also said he could feel the changing attitudes of North Korean officials and its people, and their yearnings for new opportunities for growth.
"What was pleasing was, there seemed to be genuine desire to be more open and frank and candid discussions.
Regarding South Korea's previous vow to donate some 4.5 million dollars of humanitarian assistance to North Korea through the WFP, the head of the WFP said he doesn't yet know about the exact timeline of the donation, and he hopes to continue close consultation with the South Korean government.
Meanwhile, following the WFP chief's meeting with South Korea's unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon on Tuesday afternoon, he is also scheduled to meet South Korea's foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha on Wednesday, to discuss humanitarian assistance to North Korea and close mutual consultation on future projects.
Park Ji-won, Arirang News.