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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Seoul is reviewing plans to resume sending humanitarian assistance to North Korea through international and domestic private organizations, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) said on Monday.
“As UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and the WFP (World Food Program) requested the resumption of aid, we are now reviewing it under the conditions including transparency and monitoring,” Lee Duk-haeng, a spokesperson for the Unification Ministry, told media at a regular press briefing.
“There is also [the option of] offering the aid to North Korea via our (South Korean) private organizations apart from sending the aid through international organizations, and therefore we will consider [these two] together.”
The provision of humanitarian aid has been suspended since Pyongyang carried out a nuclear test and several missile launches early last year.
“The Ministry of Unification has been continuously reviewing the necessity of supporting projects of health and medical treatment including the international organizations’ nutritional support for vulnerable groups such as North Korean infants and pregnant women and [the provision of] vaccines,” Lee said.
Seoul also recognized the need for providing humanitarian assistance in health care, Lee added, and has been developing plans for a more efficient and transparent aid program for several months.
In mid-March, the MOU said that the government is set to establish an online information system equipped with demand and geographical analysis as part of plans to improve the provision of aid to North Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered a speech on Saturday calling for the international community to expand assistance to countries with underdeveloped healthcare provision, including Pyongyang, during a G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.
“Humanitarian aid in the field of the health and medical services should not be connected to political situations,” Moon said.
Moon cited UN statistics from earlier in the year, which suggested up to 28 percent of North Korean children under five years old and 41 percent of the total population were malnourished, as proof of the urgency of the situation.
“[South Korea] will work with international organizations and civilian organizations to support humanitarian aid along with systematic and rigorous monitoring within the framework of international sanctions,” Moon said.
Since taking office in May, Moon’s administration has pursued what it has referred to as a “dual-track” approach to North Korea, seeking denuclearization through pressure while simultaneously promoting dialogue and engagement.
So far North Korea has responded by stepping up the rate of its missile launches, having conducted five – including what it claims to have been an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – since Moon took office on May 10.
The South Korean unification ministry also said on Monday that authorities were in the process of “following up and developing implementation plans” for policies outlined in the President’s “Berlin Doctrine” speech last Thursday.
The MOU said on Friday that the South is reviewing the possibility of holding working-level talks on reunions of families separated by the Korean War, as well as talks to convince North Korean authorities to “halt hostile acts.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: UN Photo