South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul speaks during a press conference at the government complex in Seoul. South Korea plans to send 50 000 tons of rice to North Korea through the World Food Program in its second aid package announced over the past month as it looks to help with the North's food shortages and improve bilateral relations. Picture: Ahn Young-joon/AP

Seoul - South Korea will donate to North Korea 50 000 metric tons of rice and 4.5 million dollars to help alleviate food shortages, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said on Wednesday.

It is the largest donation from South Korea to the North since 2008, the WFP said in a statement, adding that it will support 1.5 million to 2 million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Last month the WFP reported that food production in North Korea had fallen to the lowest level in 10 years, putting millions of people at risk of hunger unless they get foreign aid.

UN agricultural and food experts visited the isolated Communist country in March and April and found that around 10 million people do not have enough food until the next harvest.

In some rural areas, 43 per cent of the people are malnourished, and one in five children suffer from stunted growth because they do not get enough to eat, WFP said.

dpa