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NK silent over South Korea`s offer of humanitarian relief aid

NK silent over South Korea`s offer of humanitarian relief aid

Posted September. 08, 2012 04:34,   


South Korea has offered relief aid to flood-stricken North Korea in an apparent attempt to thaw frozen bilateral relations through humanitarian assistance ahead of the South`s presidential election in December. The North, however, has given no response for four days.

“We conveyed our intention under the name of the South Korean National Red Cross to give relief assistance Monday and proposed to have contacts over the matter in late September," an official at the South Korean Unification Ministry said Friday.

“Judging that North Korea has sustained considerable damage from drought, flooding and a typhoon, we recently expressed our willingness to help the North recover from the damage,” Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told the National Assembly the same day.

South Korea estimates that based on North Korean media reports and an assessment by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, heavy rains and typhoons killed 223 people dead in the North, left 230,000 people displaced, and damaged 1,190 square kilometers of land and 56,000 homes.

North Korea, which is said to be pursuing economic reform, is attempting to improve ties with China, Russia, Japan and the U.S. Last month, Jang Song Taek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un who is considered the country`s No. 2 man, visited China for a secret contact with the U.S. in Singapore.

Pyongyang will also resume talks with Tokyo over the return of the remains of Japanese nationals who were kidnapped to North Korea. Rumors also say Kim will visit Russia soon.

Pyongyang, however, has maintained its hostile stance against Seoul by refusing bilateral contacts. Last month, the North rejected the South’s proposal to hold reunions of separated Korean families. This situation is frustrating for the outgoing Lee Myung-bak administration, which needs to manage inter-Korean relations ahead of the December presidential election in Seoul.

The government has been seeking to provide flood aid to North Korea since early last month, as humanitarian aid to Pyongyang has often thawed strained inter-Korean relations. In August 2010, South Korea decided to provide 10 billion won (89 million U.S. dollars) in flood aid to North Korea and sent relief materials until November that year. The Stalinist country in return repatriated South Korean ship crew that it detained and allowed inter-Korean family reunions.

Seoul interprets Pyongyang’s recent acceptance of a South Korean civilian organization’s flood aid as a positive signal. But the North has yet to respond to the South’s relief proposal.

“It seems that the North is thinking about our proposal,” a Unification Ministry official said. “We will continue to wait for a response as we have some time until the date of the proposed meeting.”