S. Korea mulling over $8m in aid to NK via UN agencies

By Yonhap
  • Published : Sept 14, 2017 - 11:05
  • Updated : Sept 14, 2017 - 16:21
South Korea said Thursday that it is considering providing $8 million in aid to North Korea via international organizations as it seeks to spur inter-Korean exchanges regardless of political considerations.

The government plans to hold a meeting on inter-Korean cooperation next Thursday to finalize whether to offer humanitarian assistance to those who are vulnerable in North Korea, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

Seoul suspended its aid to North Korea through UN agencies after the North's nuclear and missile tests in 2016.

If approved, the South would provide $4.5 million for a project to help infants and pregnant women by the World Food Program, and $3.5 million for the UN International Children's Emergency Fund. The two agencies have asked Seoul to resume its financial support.

"The government's basic stance is that humanitarian assistance to those who are vulnerable in North Korea should be continued regardless of political considerations," a ministry official said.

"Seoul plans to decide the details of the aid and its timing after taking into account the inter-Korean situation," he added.

If agreed, it would be the first humanitarian assistance by Seoul under the Moon Jae-in administration. It would also mark the resumption of aid via UN organizations after a hiatus of nearly two years.

President Moon said at the Group of 20 summit in July that assistance in the welfare and medical sectors should not be linked to political situations, citing the issue of malnutrition among North Korean infants.

South Korea offered humanitarian assistance to the North even under conservative administrations, but Moon's predecessor under an ousted President Park Geun-hye held off the aid after the North's fourth nuclear test in January 2016.

Moon took office in May with vows to seek sanctions and dialogue to resolve the North's nuclear issue.

The move comes at a delicate time when the UN Security Council on Monday slapped new tougher sanctions over Pyongyang's sixth nuclear test.

The ministry official said he believes that Seoul's move would not hamper the sanctions regime.

The government said that it has explained its aid plan to the United States in order not to give a wrong message to the international community focusing on pressure and sanctions on the wayward regime.

In May, the South announced that it will permit civic groups to seek inter-Korean exchanges to an extent that such a move would not compromise the international sanctions regime.

But North Korea has rejected it in protest at Seoul's support for UN sanctions against it. It claimed that sanctions and dialogue cannot go together.

The ministry also added that it is "positively" considering chipping in $6 million for the UN agency's census on North Korea.

North Korea earlier said that it plans to conduct a preliminary survey of its population in October with technical support from the United Nations Population Fund. The census is slated for next year.

"Seoul is mulling over the support," the official noted. "It will be a good chance to get an idea of the current state of the North Korean population with reliable international methods and the ministry feels the need (for supporting) such project."

It would mark the North's first census since 2008, when the South provided Pyongyang with $4 million by tapping its inter-Korean cooperation fund. (Yonhap)