North Korea's pleas have worked


A villager looks at a destroyed home after a flash flood swept through Kuandian, near the China-North Korea border in northeast China's Liaoning province on Aug. 21, 2010. Heavy rain sparked serious flooding along the border again this year.



It's so hard to tell when North Korea means it.

Too often, when they say something — like, for instance, that they want to rejoin nuke talks or make friends with the South — they follow it up with the exact opposite behavior — walking out of nuke talks or firing things at the South.

Unreliable is a word that comes to mind.

So, when the North claimed there was unprecedented flood damage this summer, the international scene could be forgiven for having doubts.

Especially when the veracity of the North's claims were called into question after a photo was published that turned out to be doctored.

See for yourself:

But the general consensus seems to be that the damage is at least as bad as the North is saying.

Their official stats put the death toll at 30, with more than 15,800 people rendered homeless and 120,000 acres of farmland inundated.

And in the past, the United States and South Korea have made efforts to distinguish between political and humanitarian concerns when it comes to North Korea.

Now appears to be no exception.

Today, the United States announced it will send $900,000 in emergency aid.

According to The Washington Post:

The aid announced on Thursday will consist of medical supplies and won’t include food, said a State Department official who was not authorized to speak by name.

Even if the North is being forthright about the needs of its people, however, there is an argument to be made for withholding aid.

As GlobalPost's Bradley Martin wrote previously in "Does North Korea deserve aid?":

... over the years two things have become clear. First, donors are denied the ability to make sure the aid gets to needy civilians. Much of it in fact is siphoned off by officials who eat it themselves, supply it to the military or sell it to market traders.

So, it's not food or money, but whether the medical supplies will reach those they are intended for remains to be seen.

As several news outlets have pointed out by way of contextualizing today's news, the last time the United States offered up aid to the North was in September 2010, when it sent $600,000 in medical supplies as flood aid, delivered through U.S.-based non-governmental organizations.

And earlier this month, South Korea offered $4.7 million in aid to North Korea, the first time it had offered assistance to Pyongyang since the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November.