North asks for flood aid from group

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North asks for flood aid from group

Flood-stricken North Korea asked for help from a private group in the South and invited members of the group to Kaesong on Friday, not directly asking for help from the Southern government due to strained inter-Korean relations.

The Korean NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea, a Seoul-based association of civic groups striving for inter-Korean interaction, said they received a fax message on Wednesday from Pyongyang proposing a talk dealing with aid. The details of the fax weren’t made public.

“Although we will not be able to look around all of the flood-affected regions, we will discuss further measures in detail,” John Park, a priest and the vice president of the council, told the Korea JoongAng Daily in a telephone interview. “After we send emergency aid, we would possibly visit some hard-hit areas to monitor whether our supplies go to people in need.”

“We assume that Pyongyang will demand flour and some medicine,” he added. “But we aren’t sure whether the government would authorize all of the aid they demand.”

In early August, the council proposed offering relief supplies to the flood-hit North first. A total of four people from the group will depart Seoul today for the one-day trip.

After returning to Seoul, they will convene a press meeting on Tuesday to announce the result of the negotiation with the North and promote their fund-raising campaign for North Korean children. The Ministry of Unification authorized the visit yesterday.

“The council received the invitation from the regime yesterday [Wednesday],” an official at the Unification Ministry told reporters. “It will become the first flood aid from a private group this year. Other private organizations in the South have also requested authorization to visit the North over the same matter, and we are in the process of reviewing it.”

Still, a Blue House official told the JoongAng Ilbo that they “are not mulling over any plans to provide emergency aid or supplies to the North.”

The North’s official mouthpiece Korean Central News Agency reported on Wednesday that torrential rains once again battered the country, from last Friday to Monday, in the Hwanghae and South Pyongan provinces in the southwestern part of the country, killing at least six people in total.

The state news agency reported the storm washed away some 170 houses in the Hwanghae region, and submerged about 300 houses and 30 buildings in South Pyongan.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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