RoK halts sand imports from DPRK

According to Yonhap:

South Korean companies have suspended their sand imports from North Korea, one of the longest-running economic cooperation projects between the countries, as tension mounted over the March sinking of a South Korean warship, a Seoul official said Tuesday.

Seven South Korean companies have stopped sending cargo vessels to North Korea since Monday, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said.

“We warned them to be careful about the safety of their employees” because political tension is rising between the Koreas, Chun told reporters.

He denied that the government pressured the companies into suspending their imports, saying they “voluntarily” halted their operations after the warning.

“There are fears that further deterioration in the inter-Korean ties may undermine their businesses,” he said.

The suspension is the latest in a series of developments that indicate worsening ties between the Koreas after the warship sank near the border with the North, killing dozens of seamen.

South Korea suspects the North was behind the tragedy and is set to announce the results of its weeks-long probe into the sinking later this week, vowing a stern response to those found responsible. Pyongyang denies any role in it.

The cargo companies have brought more than 38 million tons of sand from North Korea since 2004, the ministry said in a statement. Most of the sand came from the western coastal city of Haeju.

The trade, despite its small scale, was considered a symbol of reconciliation because it was seen as mitigating tension along the maritime border between the Koreas.

Their navies have clashed three times near the Yellow Sea border since 1999, the latest in November of last year.

Since last week, South Korea has also stopped funding government-level exchanges with North Korea and urged hundreds of companies to refrain from starting new ventures with Pyongyang.

The countries remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

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S. Korea halts sand imports from N. Korea amid tension
Sam Kim


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