South allows fish imports from North, gov’t says

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South allows fish imports from North, gov’t says

South Korea has recently allowed fish imports from North Korea, government officials said yesterday, a first since it imposed sanctions on the state following its deadly military provocations in 2010.

Forty tons of scallops worth a total of $100,000 were shipped through the Port of Sokcho on the eastern border in mid-June upon the request of three South Korean firms, said officials at the Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

This is the first time Seoul has approved North Korean imports since it banned most new investments in its isolated neighbor under sanctions imposed over the North’s sinking of a South Korean warship in March 2010.

The three firms were allowed to receive the goods as they succeeded in negotiating with their North Korean trading partners, ministry officials said. They noted the decision does not violate the May 2010 sanction that bans new investment as the payments were made before the sanctions took effect.

“The government approved [the imports] taking into consideration North Korea’s supply capacity, the effects on the market and the possibilities of conflicts arising between the companies,” a ministry official said. “As they did not send money to North Korea after the sanctions, the decision does not violate the sanctions.”

Seoul blames Pyongyang for the March 2010 sinking of the Cheonan warship and the artillery shelling of the frontline island of Yeonpyeong, which killed 50 South Koreans. Despite lingering tensions and economic sanctions, the divided Koreas maintain their joint industrial complex in the North’s western border city of Kaesong, which serves as a key legitimate cash cow for the North.

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