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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
A South Korean organization with current and former lawmakers as members will send emergency flood relief to North Korea, the group announced on Wednesday.
The group stipulated that aid will be limited to children’s clothes to prevent the North Korean government from pocketing the relief.
“We are planning to send children’s winter clothes including gloves, as the harsh winter season is soon to hit the flood affected region,” Heo Yongbum, the spokesperson for Korea Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC) told NK News.
Since the North was hit by the devastating Typhoon Lionrock about three weeks ago, Seoul has repeatedly stated that it would not allow South Koreans to send flood relief to the North.
Because of Seoul’s firm stance, Heo explained, the group had decided to limit their aid to winter clothes, and would not be extending it to items such as rice or cement, which could be siphoned off by the regime.
“Because of the nuclear or missile developments, the attempts for relief works are already politicized,” he said.
The spokesperson said that winter clothes are needed the most, with temperatures expected to drop below zero Celsius in flood-struck areas next month.
“We know for a fact that the Pyongyang government can’t redirect the children’s clothing because of its small size.”
But even if KCRC succeeds in purchasing enough winter clothes, this does not necessarily mean they will be able to send them to the North via China border regions.
The South Korean Unification Ministry on Wednesday called the action “inappropriate,” KBS reported quoting an anonymous official from the ministry, and whether Seoul will allow the delivery is unclear.
But KCRC insists it is “positive that the government will give permission” shortly, and said it would be stockpiling the clothes near the China – North Korea border region.
“We have a warehouse near Hunchun, and we will purchase and store the clothes there as the funds arrive,” Heo said, urging the international community to donate money.
KCRC was formed in 1998 during the presidency of Kim Dae-jung. Made up of over 200 current and former South Korean politicians, religious leaders, scholars, and NGOs, the Council presents itself as a “line of communication” between the Seoul government and the people.
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