South Korea’s unification minister and the top legislator on inter-Korean policies on Friday discussed seeking an international sanctions exemption to send COVID 19-related aid to the North.
The one-on-one meeting comes as the Ministry of Unification (MOU) this week continued to express their desire to further inter-Korean cooperation, notably referring to South Korea’s “May 24” unilateral sanctions as largely having “lost their effect.”
“President Moon Jae-in and President Trump in their previous phone call firmly agreed upon COVID-19-related humanitarian aid issues regarding North Korea,” National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee Chair Yoon Sanghyun reportedly told Minister of Unification Kim Yeon-chul.
“I understand that North Korea’s public health and medical infrastructure is weak,” Yoon said.
“It seems that Doctors Without Borders (MSF), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) have received exemptions approval from the UN to send medical items and are pursuing [such assistance for North Korea].”
Yoon suggested that he and Kim also review this option, and asked the minister to consider responses such as dispatching medical experts and quarantine supplies to the North.
The minister reportedly responded on a positive note, calling for parliamentary cooperation with the Moon administration regarding the matter and highlighting the need for a “national consensus on humanitarian cooperation.”
The meeting was arranged at Yoon’s request, according to MOU spokesperson Yoh Sangkey.
While North Korea maintains there have been no cases of COVID-19 within its borders, the international community has continued to make efforts to help prevent an outbreak of the virus.
The Chinese and Russian governments have offered to send diagnostic kits, and South Korean private organizations have received approval from the MOU to send hand sanitizers and protective suits.
Some organizations, however, noted this week that more investment is needed to help North Korea’s vulnerable population.
According to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) bimonthly report made public this week, for instance, only 3% — $1.3 million out of the funding requirement of $39.7 million — has been procured for the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) to assist the COVID-19 response in North Korea.
Along with potential pandemic assistance, Yoon on Friday also raised the issue of food aid.
“There is a need for the [ROK] government to preemptively respond before the food crisis in North Korea worsens,” the lawmaker told Kim, suggesting that Seoul go ahead with sending the 50,000 tons of rice to the North through the World Food Programme (WFP) that Yoon’s committee approved last year.
South Korea's unification minister and the top legislator on inter-Korean policies on Friday discussed seeking an international sanctions exemption to send COVID 19-related aid to the North.
The one-on-one meeting comes as the Ministry of Unification (MOU) this week continued to express their desire to further inter-Korean cooperation, notably referring to South Korea's "May 24" unilateral sanctions as largely having "lost their effect."