South Korea approved Friday the first shipment of humanitarian aid by a private charity group to North Korea since President Park Geun-hye took office last month.
“This latest approval was given for the pure humanitarian need to help tuberculosis patients in North Korea,” unification ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said.
Under the approval, Eugene Bell, a South Korean charity group, will ship tuberculosis medicine worth 678 million won (US$606,500 to eight tuberculosis clinics run by the South Korean group in North Korea. The shipment is expected to be delivered in April, the official said.
This marks the first aid package approved by the ministry since Park took office on Feb. 25. The last aid request was granted in November last year under President Lee Myung-bak.
The latest gesture comes as bilateral relations have fallen to a low ebb with the North threatening to use its nuclear weapons against South Korea and the U.S. for carrying out annual joint military drills. Pyongyang has received flak from the international community for detonating a nuclear device on Feb. 12.
“The approval is strictly for humanitarian purposes and should not be read as a message to condone North Korea’s recent provocations,” Kim said.
“The planned medicine aid can help cure about 500 multidrug-resistant tuberculosis patients in the North whose lives would be at serious risk without the medicine,” the spokesman said.
It is difficult for North Korea to produce quality medicine to cure the difficult type of tuberculosis, he added. (Yonhap News)