$10M in rice, ramen being sent to Sinuiju

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$10M in rice, ramen being sent to Sinuiju

South Korea will send $10 million worth of humanitarian aid to North Korea, including 5,000 tons of rice, 10,000 tons of cement and three million cups of instant noodles.

“The aid will be sent to Sinuiju,” said Yoo Chong-ha, president of the South Korean Red Cross, yesterday, referring to the city devastated by torrential rains and heavy flooding in recent months.

The rice will be sent in five-kilogram (11-pound) packages for widespread distribution. The Red Cross calculates there are roughly 80,000 to 90,000 Sinuiju residents in need of help and the aid could provide them with provisions for at least three months.

According to Yoo, the greater part of the $10 million will come from the government’s Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund because the Red Cross “does not have sufficient funds at the moment, as it is nearing the end of the year.”

Heavy construction machinery requested by the North earlier this month was not included in the package.

“The machineries [North Korea] requested, such as excavators, are too big and we have decided that giving them equipment would be crossing the line beyond humanitarian aid,” Yoo said. “That is something for the South Korean government to decide.”

Yoo said that the aid would be delivered within a month and emphasized that the donation has no political motives.

This is the first major aid from Seoul for the North since the sinking of the warship Cheonan in March, which heightened inter-Korean tension.

“We would like to keep this as purely humanitarian and will make efforts to separate this from the current political atmosphere,” Yoo said.

The South Korean government also sent requests yesterday to North Korea to hold working-level talks on Friday to negotiate inter-Korean family reunions.

North Korea’s state-run news agency reported on Saturday that the North Korean Red Cross had suggested family reunions during the Chuseok holiday next week.

Yoo said yesterday that the reunions would likely be held sometime in October, as the preparations would take some time.

He also underscored the importance of regularizing the reunions.

“There are 80,000 left of the 120,000 separated family members who applied for reunions, and we only exchange 100 names from each side for each reunion,” Yoo said.

“We need to hold more of these,” Yoo said. “This is a matter of time because these separated family members are elderly.”

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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