Seoul rejects aid for NorthThe South Korean Ministry of Unification said yesterday it is turning down requests made by 14 South Korean relief groups to contact North Korea.
According to the ministry, the groups had planned to meet with North Korean authorities in Shenyang, China, from April 7-10 to discuss aid to the North.
“Considering the current situation between South and North Korea we feel it is inappropriate for so many of these groups to meet with one particular North Korean organ,” a Unification Ministry official said yesterday.
The South Korean government’s decision to turn down the groups’ requests is in line with the policy announced by President Lee Myung-bak last May 24 in response to the Cheonan sinking two months prior.
The Lee administration’s hard-line stance toward the North Korea, including the difficult choice it had to make to restart aid for infants and toddlers, has not been without reason.
Intelligence reports to government bureaus, including the Ministry of Unification, indicated that a large number of tangerines from Jeju Island had been siphoned off as presents from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to high-ranking North Korean officials.
The fruit had originally been sent to provide North Korean children with vitamin C.
Intelligence authorities also confirmed that rice, medicine and powdered milk sent to the North had been taken by the North Korean military or sold by North Korean party and military officials.
“Tangerines are the most prized of the goods sent as aid,” said one source familiar with North Korean affairs. “It has been made known through defectors and intelligence sources that [tangerines] were handed out as gifts to urge loyalty from high-ranking officials to Kim Jong-il from 2000, when Jeju tangerine aid really kicked off.
“This fact was reported to the Blue House and related government bureaus during this administration. It was also the reason why Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, who is from Jeju, turned down requests from the Jeju regional government for funding for North Korean aid tangerines,” the source added.
Jeju’s tangerine aid to the North, which began in January 1999, amounted to 48,328 tons until November 2009. With an additional 18,100 tons of carrots on top of that, 23 billion won ($21 million) was used to send the aid.
The Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations had supported the aid from the government’s inter-Korean cooperation fund.
The current administration, however, rejected a request for 2 billion won in aid transportation costs in December 2008.
North Korea said in 2007 that the fruit had been delivered to a kindergarten in Pyongyang, but it was found to be a child-care center for the children of high-ranking government officials.
The North Korean source also said the carrots were made into juice for children of North Korean officials.
The same goes for rice and medicine sent in large amounts since the first inter-Korean summit in 2000.
According to a North Korean defectors’ testimony obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo, the defector, surnamed Lim, said that sacks of rice from South Korea labeled with red crosses were covered with North Korean sacks and sent to military bases in military trucks disguised as civilian vehicles.
Another defector who had been in the North Korean military said that medicine for civilians was sent to military hospitals.
By Lee Young-jong, Christine Kim [email@example.com]
한글 관련 기사 [연합]
통일부, 민간단체 北접촉 불허 방침
14개 단체 ‘선양서 北민화협 접촉’ 신청
통일부는 대북 민간단체들이 북한 민족화해협의회(이하 민화협)와 대북 지원사업을 협의하기 위해 제출한 북한주민접촉신청 14건에 대해 5일 수리거부할 방침이다.
우리민족서로돕기운동과 우리겨레하나되기 등 대북 민간단체 14곳은 오는 7∼10일 중국 선양에서 민화협과 잇따라 만나 대북 지원사업을 협의하겠다며 통일부에 북한주민 접촉신청을 했다.
남북교류협력법에 따르면 남한 주민이 북한 주민과 접촉하려면 통일부 장관에게 사전에 신고해야 하며 통일부 장관은 이를 수리거부할 수 있다.
통일부 당국자는 이날 "대북지원의 분배투명성이 제대로 이뤄질 수 있도록 하기 위한 협의인데 신청한 14건 모두 나흘간 시간대별로 쭉 만나는 형식"이라면서 "현 남북관계 상황에서 북한의 한 특정기관과 우리 십여 개 단체들이 일괄적으로 만나는 게 적절하지 않다는 판단이 있다"고 말했다.
이 당국자는 "최근 영유아 등 취약계층을 위한 지원을 재개한 만큼 실제로 접촉이 필요한 부분이 있다"면서 "개별단체와 민간단체 협의회인 대북협력민간단체협의회(북민협)와 협의를 통해 적절한 방법을 상의하고 있다"고 전했다.
한편 당초 8일께 예정됐던 백두산 화산 관련 남북 전문가 회의는 다음주 북측 지역에서 열릴 것으로 보인다.
통일부 당국자는 "지난번 우리 지역에서 회의가 열린 만큼 이번에는 북측 지역을 생각하고 있다"면서 "다음주 개최를 내용으로 하는 전통문을 내일 북측에 보낼 계획"이라고 말했다.