Ministry aids small projects in North

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Ministry aids small projects in North

The Unification Ministry said yesterday it was taking steps to provide private organizations with funding to help humanitarian aid projects for North Korea, but added that the move is not related to a recent North Korean request for humanitarian assistance from the South.

“The government is reviewing plans to provide financial help for private agencies in supplying medical aid for North Korea and is taking administrative steps,” said Chun Hae-sung, the ministry spokesman. “But we haven’t decided on a specific amount of our contribution or which groups to help.”

Last August, the South provided 3.5 billion won ($2.9 million) to private organizations for infant- and child-focused programs in the North.

In inter-Korean Red Cross talks last Friday, the North requested humanitarian aid of an unspecified nature. The South said it would review the request.

Chun said the process will begin this week but added the decision to help private aid groups is separate from the North’s request.

Chun said Seoul would continue to supply “purely humanitarian” aid for North Korea, regardless of political situations on the peninsula.

Though the Lee Myung-bak administration suspended rice and fertilizer aid from the South last year, South Korea’s NGOs have continued to supply medication and clothing for seniors and children.

A high-ranking government official on Sunday ruled out providing massive rice aid to the North, arguing that it would amount to more than mere humanitarian aid.

Millions of North Koreans are reportedly at risk of starvation as international aid has dried up and Pyongyang has imposed restrictions on assistance programs.

The United Nations World Food Program said in July this year that it had received no contributions for the North after the country’s nuclear test in May, and that Pyongyang had demanded that the agency scale back its operations, deporting Korean-speaking workers.

By Yoo Jee-ho []

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