The South Korean government is considering contributing $8 million in international humanitarian aid to North Korea to help improve maternal and child care conditions despite the scurry of UN and individual state sanctions in response to Pyongyang’s repeated missile and nuclear protests.
According to an unnamed official from South Korea’s Ministry of Unification on Thursday, the government plans to discuss whether to provide $8 million in aid as requested by international agencies under the United Nations including UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP) at a meeting on inter-Korean cooperation on September 21. The plan includes providing $4.5 million for a project led by WFP to improve nutrition of children and pregnant women in North Korea and $3.5 million for UNICEF project that involves providing vaccines and vital medical items to children and pregnant women and help improve malnutrition.
The unification ministry official said that the Seoul government will decide on the details of assistance as well as timing after comprehensively taking into account overall conditions such as of inter-Korean relations.
If the South Korean government decides to go ahead with the plan, it will be the first humanitarian aid to North Korea under the Moon Jae-in administration. It will also be the first aid via an international organization in 21 months after South Korea provided $800,000 in December 2015 to support a project led by UN Population Fund.
South Korea had provided humanitarian assistance to North Korea via international agencies even under conservative administrations but it was halted in January last year after the North conducted its fourth nuclear test.
In addition to the latest $8 million aid plan, the South Korean government is also mulling providing $6 million in assistance via UNFPA after a request made by Pyongyang ahead of its census activity next year.
Seoul is tilting towards humanitarian aid even as Washington and Tokyo mount unilateral sanctions on top of toughest-yet UN sanctions to mount greater pressure on Pyongyang that had carried out numerous provocations including its recent sixth nuclear test as the liberal government has vowed to keep humanitarian aid separate from sanctions.
By Ahn Byoung-jun
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