South Korea has not sent aid across the DMZ since a missile test by the north in March
Relief groups say they plan this week to send the first aid shipments from South Korea to the flood-hit north since they were suspended six months ago, providing they can get permission from Seoul.
South Korea has not sent any aid north of the Demilitarized Zone since an unsuccessful missile test by the Communist regime in March.
But talks between the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (KNCCN) and counterparts just north of the DMZ on Friday look set to end the recent impasse, Kang Young-sik, KNCCN secretary general, said following his return from the talks in the northern city of Kaesong.
Representatives of the north’s National Reconciliation Council asked for “urgent flood aid, mentioning food, medical goods and construction materials,” Kang said.
The North’s state-run Korea Central News Agency recently reported that heavy rain in different areas of the country from late June to July killed 169 people, with a further 400 missing.
South Korea's unification minister, Yo Woo-ik, told the National Assembly on Friday that Seoul could approve the resumption of aid to the Communist state, adding that the government was closely following the flood situation north of the border.
“There will be no difficulty getting the South Korean government’s approval because the government has already approved our visit to North Korea,” said Father John Park Chang-il, who took part in Friday’s talks as director of the Catholic aid group Corea Peace 3000.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the fact that the regime was calling for aid showed not only how serious flooding was there but also that the political situation was stabilizing following the death of Kim Jong-il in December and the succession of his son Kim Jong-un.
Although it would be symbolic, Yang said the resumption of aid was unlikely to lead to any significant improvements between the two Koreas in the short term.
“The current government [in Seoul] does not have any will to improve the restricted relations with North Korea,” he said.
The World Food Program, China and Vietnam have already committed to providing funds and material relief aid to the north following the recent floods.
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