About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korean NGO officials will visit the DPRK this week to discuss inter-Korean Korean cooperation projects, a civic group confirmed to NK News on Tuesday.
Members of the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (KNCCK) — which represents 60 NGOs working in humanitarian aid and engaging in inter-Korean projects — is scheduled to visit Pyongyang via Shenyang between Wednesday and Saturday.
The trip will come less than a month after KNCCK members traveled to Pyongyang to inspect medical facilities and a children’s food factory.
Around 10 persons belonging to the association will visit the DPRK, an official at the KNCCK who wished to remain anonymous confirmed to NK News, adding more or less than 15 members will make a similar trip in the near future.
“As organizations engaging in cooperation projects with North Korea are entering the country, the purpose is to discuss these issues,” the official said.
“We can move to the next step [following these discussions].”
The then-South Korean government in September 2016 disallowed the KNCCK from making contact with North Korean counterparts in a third country to discuss flood relief.
North Korean authorities are aware of the difficulties of swiftly implementing humanitarian aid and inter-Korean cooperation projects caused by international sanctions, the official told NK News.
In spite of these restraints, the ROK association said the North had agreed to its requests to discuss inter-Korean cooperation projects.
The DPRK Consultative Council for National Reconciliation (CCNR) will facilitate the visit to Pyongyang, they added.
Another South Korean NGO, the Korean Sharing Movement (KSM) — which has worked in humanitarian aid and inter-Korean cooperation projects since 1996 — is scheduled to visit Pyongyang between November 28 and December 1.
General Secretary Kang Young-sik said that the group was invited by the DPRK CCNR, and that the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) is expected to grant permission for the trip next Monday.
A visit to the North by the KSM is first of its kind since October 2012, though General Secretary Kang traveled to Pyongyang last month to attend a joint-run commemorative event to mark the 11th anniversary of the October 4 inter-Korean Declaration.
“As a support group, we can discuss issues including medical and healthcare, agricultural development, and forestry cooperation,” Kang told NK News, while adding it was predict potential agenda topics before his visit.
Seoul and Pyongyang held sectoral meetings on forestry cooperation and public health and medical care at the inter-Korean joint liaison office in October and November.
“As inter-Korean relations are renewed, we will share opinions on how the two Koreas will proceed with the project,” Kang added, saying channels of communication had been blocked “for a long time.”
Since the two Koreas’ April agreement to “encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts at all levels,” visits by both public and private South Korean organs to the North have rapidly increased.
This week saw the Hyundai Group hold a two-day event at Mount Kumgang to mark the 20th anniversary of the beginning of inter-Korean tourism at the resort.
The Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC) led by the late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s son Kim Hong-gul, too, held an inter-Korean event in the North earlier in the month.
Tuesday also saw multiple local outlets report that Choi In-guk, the South Korean son of a deceased North Korean religious leader, has been granted approval by the ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) to visit Pyongyang for a ceremony marking the second anniversary of his mother’s death.
Choi is the second son of the late Ryu Mi Yong, who served as chairwoman of the Central Committee of the Chondoist Chongu Party after her defection to the DPRK in the 1980s.
She died of lung cancer in November 2016.
South Korean outlets including Yonhap News Agency, News 1, and Tongil News on Tuesday reported that Choi is scheduled to travel to Pyongyang this week.
The detailed itinerary is unclear, however, and a unification ministry official declined to confirm the report when contacted by NK News.
“The person does not want to be disclosed to media, so we do not confirm it officially,” they said, stressing that the news could not be confirmed to foreign media outlets.
Edited by Oliver Hotham