For first time, Seoul nixes aid to North after no reply

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For first time, Seoul nixes aid to North after no reply

The Ministry of Unification said yesterday that it was withdrawing its offer of emergency flood aid to North Korea after the regime gave no response since it was notified a month ago.

“This was meant to be emergency aid, which requires a timely process,” said a ministry official. “We can’t wait forever for the North’s response, so we are withdrawing the offer.”

On Aug. 3, Seoul sent a written notification to Pyongyang of its plan to provide 5 billion won ($4.2 million) in emergency aid after reports in July of widespread flood damage in North Korea. In response, the North demanded that the South “give big,” asking for specific items such as rice and construction equipment and materials.

South Korea rejected the North’s requests on concerns that the regime would divert the aid to its military and said on Aug. 6 that it would instead provide food for infants, Choco Pie snacks and ramen, also worth 5 billion won, by mid-October.

The North gave no reply to the notification, presumably to show its discontent with Seoul’s disregard for its demands of rice and cement.

It is the first time South Korean humanitarian aid to the North has been canceled because of a lack of response from North Korea. In the past, such offers from the South were met positively by the North, followed by the South providing a specific time and place for the aid’s delivery.

“We regret not being able to have those items delivered to North Korean residents,” said another ministry official.

Some private aid from the South has been delivered to North Korean flood victims, including 250 tons of flour by a South Korean civic group on Sept. 30. The United States government, in cooperation with U.S. civic group Samaritan’s Purse, also sent 90 metric tons of emergency supplies in early September.

Some experts on inter-Korean relations said that Seoul’s withdrawal of its aid offer seemed to indicate that new Minister of Unification Yu Woo-ik was taking a principled stand on the issue, rather than being flexible as he has presented himself to be before taking up the post.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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