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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.
South Korean relief funds for North Korean victims of record-breaking floods have been sent to the International Red Cross (IRC), the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (KNCCK) said on Thursday.
The first batch of USD100,000 was sent on Wednesday, while the next, USD87,000, is to be delivered next Tuesday.
“The 54 sub-organizations belonging to the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (KNCCK) have gathered the funds for the past month,” Kwak Young-joo, a representative of the NGO, told NK News on Thursday.
“Because the Seoul government has restricted providing direct aid to North Koreans, we have taken the roundabout way by delivering our funds to the IRC.”
Earlier this year, Seoul cracked down on all private interchange between South Koreas and North Koreans as part of a response to Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the following month.
Since the decision, all South Korean NGO requests for government approval of meetings with North Koreans have been denied.
In response, one NGO, the June 15 South Korean Committee, defied the government’s rules and met with North Koreans in China. They now face a penalty of up to three million Korean won (US$2,673).
KNCCK is not the first South Korean NGO to send flood aid to North Korean victims, but the amount being sent is certainly the largest so far.
The first to send relief was the Korean Sharing Movement (KSM), which has sent around USD24,700 worth of flour and USD70,700 worth of various building materials over the last month.
As South Korean law restricts them from making direct contact with the North, the relief was delivered via overseas Koreans, its website said.
The South Korean government has been adamant it will not send aid to North Korea.
“Whether the help came from outside or the North helping themselves, the dictator would be the one gets all the credit,” Jung Joon-hee, a MoU spokesperson said last month.
The possibility of aid being siphoned off to fund North Korea’s nuclear weapon development is a primary concern.
These worries have led a lawmaker affiliated NGO to restrict their relief to children’s clothes only. KNCCK has a similar policy.
“To prevent this, the formal contract between the KNCCK and IRC clearly outlines that the money will be used for Shelter and Non-Food Items only,” Kwak said.
Whether or not North Koreans are even aware that foreign aid is helping them is uncertain. State-run media has only mentioned “North Korean produced” aid or relief that is “gathered by North Korean hands,” while not saying international assistance.
Edited by: Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun