SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea has awarded a medal for the first time to an American — the late leader of a U.S.-based aid group — for his efforts to help the communist state fight hunger and poverty, a news report said. The North has posthumously awarded its friendship medal to Ellsworth Culver, co-founder of the international aid organization Mercy Corps, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Sunday, citing Minjok Tongshin, a Los Angeles-based Korean community newspaper. Culver is the first U.S. citizen to receive a medal from North Korea, Yonhap said. The two countries, which fought in the 1950-53 Korean War, have been in a standoff since 2002 over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. North Korean U.N. diplomat Han Song-ryol delivered the medal to Culver's widow at a ceremony Tuesday in Portland, Ore., where the aid group is headquartered, Yonhap said. "The deceased is one of pioneers who made efforts achieve a new development of North Korea-U.S. relations during his life," Han was quoted as saying. Culver, who died in August at age 78, led the charity's efforts to provide the North with food and medical supplies. Through more than 20 visits to the communist state, he helped foster the agency's "extraordinary rapport with North Korean officialdom," the agency's Web site said. Neal Keny-Guyer, the relief organization's chief executive officer, did not immediately return phone messages left at his home late Saturday. No telephone number for Culver's widow, Esme Jo, was listed. North Korea has relied on foreign food aid since disclosing in the mid-1990s that its state-run farms had collapsed after the loss of Soviet aid and decades of mismanagement. Famine is believed to have killed 2 million people.