DPRK-RoK trade increases in September

According to Yonhap:

Inter-Korean trade grew for the first time in 13 months in September amid improving global economic conditions and eased cross-border tensions, customs data showed Monday.

According to data compiled by the Korea Customs Service, trade between South and North Korea amounted to US$173.17 million last month, up 2.6 percent from a year earlier when the global financial turbulence first began following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Also according to Yonhap however, the DPRK and RoK failed to agree on an aid-for-family reunions deal:

The two Koreas on Friday ended their day-long negotiations over further cross-border family reunions and other humanitarian issues without reaching any concrete agreement, with Pyongyang asking for resumption of aid by Seoul, officials said.

In the meeting arranged by Red Cross offices from both sides, South Korea proposed holding new rounds of reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War next month in both Seoul and Pyongyang, and again around February at the North’s Mount Kumgang resort.

But aid is not off the table.  According to the Korea Times today:

The government has been reviewing whether to subsidize non-government organizations through the inter-Korean cooperation fund in order to provide aid to North Korea, according to the Ministry of Unification, Monday.

“The government is mainly checking plans to offer health and medical care,” ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters. “But details have yet to be determined.”

Chun reiterated that Seoul is sticking to its existing stance that it will provide North Korea with humanitarian assistance regardless of the political climate.

According to government sources, the subsidy would total less than 1 billion won (about $853,000).

The plan, however, is not related to North Korea’s request for humanitarian aid made during the inter-Korean Red Cross talks last Friday, the sources said.

Seoul has also been reviewing whether to provide the reclusive state with government-level support such as food and fertilizer aid, according to ministry officials.

The inter-Korean cooperation fund has served as a lifeline for cross-border business projects, including the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and the Mt. Geumgang tourism program, which has been suspended.

It is also a main source of South Korea’s economic aid to the impoverished North.

The cash pot was introduced in 1990 in order to boost personal exchanges, economic cooperation and trust-building between the two Koreas.

In August, the ministry approved a plan to subsidize 10 civic groups with approximately 3.6 billion won ($3 million) from the fund for relief activities involving North Korean babies, pregnant women and other social minorities.

The government originally planned to distribute the money starting from April but North Korea’s provocations postponed the plan.

As reported before, the South Korean government has spent just 5% of the funds it budgeted for inter-Korean projects this year.

At the same time North Korea is soliciting aid from South Korean and Western religious origanizations.  See here, here, and here in just the last few days.


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