Red Cross to send first shipment of government flood aid to DPRK

From Yonhap:
Byun Duk-kun

Four South Korean Red Cross officials are to visit North Korea’s Nampo port this week to supervise the delivery of the first government aid package to help the North recover from recent flooding, an official at the Unification Ministry said Tuesday.

The Red Cross officials are to depart from a port in the country’s western city of Incheon at 11 a.m. Wednesday aboard the 3,000-ton ship Trade Fortune, which sails regularly between the Koreas, according to the official.

“The trip is to supervise the first shipment of the Red Cross’ flood aid to North Korea,” the official said.

The shipment includes 300 tons of rice, 20,000 blankets and 10,000 first aid kits, according to the official.

Seoul suspended shipments of its regular humanitarian assistance to the North shortly after Pyongyang launched seven ballistic missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2, which is believed capable of reaching the U.S. west coast.

The South Korean government says it will not make additional commitments of any economic assistance to the communist state until the North returns to stalled international negotiations with the South, Japan, China, Russia and the United States over its nuclear ambitions.

The government, however, pledged to give 241 billion won (US$251 million) worth of aid through the country’s Red Cross in one-time humanitarian assistance to the North after heavy rains there last month reportedly left hundreds people killed or missing and thousands of others injured.

Pyongyang rejected an initial aid offer from the South Korean Red Cross last month, but its inter-Korean pro-unification organization later requested Seoul’s civic organizations and other “related offices” for rice and construction equipment, while expressing gratitude for the civilian efforts to help the country recover from the flooding.

The Unification Ministry has also agreed to provide funds matching those raised by each civilian organization, expected to total some 10 billion won.

The government’s aid through the Red Cross is to include 100,000 tons of rice, 100,000 tons of iron rods, 80,000 blankets and over 200 construction vehicles.

South Korea provided hundreds of thousands of tons of rice and fertilizer to the impoverished North annually since heavy rains and a nationwide famine in the mid-1990s left over 2 million North Koreans dead and millions of others displaced.

North Korea requested the South to give half a million tons of rice for the year before it launched the seven missiles into the East Sea on July 5.

Government officials say the country will not consider accepting the North’s request until the North agrees to return to the international nuclear negotiations, which have stalled since November due to Pyongyang’s boycott, as well as resumes its self-imposed moratorium on missile tests.

The Koreas remain divided along a heavily-fortified border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with a cease-fire.


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