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Dandung Becomes Staging Ground for Aid to North Korean Blast Victims

Dandung Becomes Staging Ground for Aid to North Korean Blast Victims

Posted April. 26, 2004 20:13,   


Employees of the North Korean Embassy to Beijing have converged on Dandung, the Chinese city bordering with North Korea, to discuss ways to aid the North Korean blast victims with the international community. Most of the aid has entered into the North via Dandung.

The representative of Economic Affairs, the number two ranked official at the North Korean embassy, is now in Dandung to lead negotiations. His presence in the border city summed up the enormity of the Yongcheon blast.

Meanwhile, rumors still have it that the blast was an attempt at the life of Kim Jong-il, chairman of the country’s National Defense Commission.

Rows of trucks loaded with Chinese aid for the North went to into the North via the Chinese-North Korean Friendship Bridge, crossing over the Yaru River. A customs official said, “The aid consists mainly of medicine, blankets, tents, and instant noodles.”

On the afternoon of April 26, about 80 trucks carrying slates, cement, construction supplies, cotton products, shoes, and fruits went to the city of Sinuiju. A day earlier, China, which has promised 300 truckloads of aid supplies, sent 2,000 blankets, 300 tents, and instant noodles.

South Korea’s civilian aid groups are actively getting involved as well. On April 25, representatives of Good Neighborhood, an NGO for aid for North Korea, met with their counterparts of the Korea National Economy Cooperation Association to discuss ways to aid the victims. On April 27, five members of the Aid Headquarters for Yongcheon Victims, an umbrella of South Korean NGOs urgently launched to help the victims, will arrive in Dandung to deliver the first batch of aid to Yongcheon.

“We were not notified yet by the South Korean group,” said a representative of the Economic Cooperation Association. “However, we intend to receive their aid.” The association’s Beijing branch is reportedly the window for contact for the South’s NGOs.

Rumors are widespread in Yongcheon and Sinuiju, claiming that the blast was an attempt at Chairman Kim Jong-il’s life, said sources close to the cities.

“As the rumors continuously rage on even five days after the blast, another rumor has it that the North’s security agency is out to hunt for anti-establishment figures,” a source said. “While Chairman Kim was visiting China, there were rumors claiming that there was a group that was attempting to assassinate him.” He said, “Originally, Chairman Kim had plans to visit Sinuiju on his way back home and attend a welcome home ceremony at noon at the Yongcheon station. However, he cancelled his public appearances, following the tip of assassination plots.”

However, another source said, “As Chairman Kim’s China visit happened to took place almost simultaneously with the blast, the canard is on the rise.” He added, “The nature of North Korea as a closed society means such rumors will be here to stay for the time being.”

Yoo-Seong Hwang yshwang@donga.com