The North Korean government has accepted a South Korean aid offer, raising hopes for an improvement in relations between the neighboring countries.
North Korea contacted KRC – the South Korean Red Cross – yesterday to accept the South’s offer for assistance in flood-hit areas in the North. Last month, typhoon Bolaven killed 176 North Koreans and left another 212,204 displaced, according to KRC estimates.
“The North called us to specify the type and quantity of aid,” said a Ministry of Unification official. He added, however, that the North rejected any face-to-face meetings.
KRC delivered the offer on behalf of South Korea on September 3.
The Ministry of Unification gave civic groups approval to deliver food aid to flood-hit areas in the North on September 6. World Vision, an international NGO, will send 500 tons of flour to the North within the week.
Assistance from the South Korean government could be a step towards normalizing relations between the countries.
South Korea banned contact – other than humanitarian – with the North after a South Korean naval vessel was attacked and sunk without warning in May 2010.
When North Korea conducted a rocket launch test in April, the South canceled humanitarian and medical aid as well.
Yang Moo-jin, professor of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the flood aid would improve the two Koreas’ chilly relationship if South Korea provides trucks, cement and steel in the package.
Last year, South Korea offered to send emergency aid of medicine and food to the North’s flood victims but Pyongyang asked for cement and repair equipment instead. The offer was withdrawn because the South Korean government were worried that these goods might be diverted for military purposes or stockpiled.
Jeong Jun-young, head of Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation at KRC, said the humanitarian group does not yet know what kind of aid will be offered.