South announces new aid for North

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South announces new aid for North

South Korea has earmarked 10.6 billion won ($9.7 million) in aid for North Korean mothers and young children and families separated by the Korean War (1950-53) as the two Koreas struggle to find a breakthrough in frozen bilateral relations.

The government said Tuesday it approved an aid plan of 10.6 billion won under the inter-Korean Cooperation Funds set up to support mutual exchanges and cooperation between the two Koreas.

Of the $9.7 million, the biggest chunks will be given to the multinational organizations United Nations Children’s Funds (Unicef) and World Food Programme (WFP). The government said it will provide Unicef with $4 million to help the North with obtaining virus vaccines and other medical supplies. As for the WFP, the government expects $2.1 million will be used to deliver nutritional products to needy mothers and children in the North.

The Unification Ministry, which is in charge of inter-Korean relations, said the aid to the two groups are part of the Park Geun-hye administration’s efforts to assist North Koreans on a humanitarian basis. A ministry official said the aid does not violate United Nations’ sanctions imposed on the North for its nuclear tests because they are purely humanitarian.

The ministry said the government donated $13.3 million to the WFP and World Health Organization last September for humanitarian support to the reclusive state.

Additionally, the government earmarked 1 billion won to help North Koreans with disabilities.

The government also dedicated 2 billion won to help the Korean Red Cross make video messages to be exchanged by relatives of families separated during the Korean War. The government also earmarked 974 million won to conduct DNA tests for the surviving relatives so they could find their loved ones in the North after they pass away.

The two Koreas remain stalemated over reunions of separated relatives. The last reunion was held in February 2014. The North has refused to hold another since, insisting the South lift economic sanctions imposed in retaliation for the sinking of the Cheonan warship in 2010.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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