South Korea approves $8m aid package for North Korea

Cheryl Sanders
September 22, 2017

The last time the South had sent aid to the North was in December 2015. It marked the resumption of aid after a hiatus of almost two years.

The aid will go toward the WFP's nutritional programs for children and expectant mothers as well as UNICEF's vaccinations, essential medicine and treatments targeting children and pregnant women.

"I don't know the manner which humanitarian aid is delivered, if it can deliver directly to people, it doesn't go through the government, so it is diverted for corrupt purposes or to support the regime", said Cardin.

The announcement earlier in the month by the MOU provoked strong domestic opposition, and prompted Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to ask Seoul to avoid actions that might undermine global efforts to pressure Pyongyang.

Still, the decision is ensured to trigger heated political debates as many South Koreans have expressed concerns that the aid resumption would distract from efforts to step up sanctions and pressure against the North over its rapidly expanding nuclear weapons programme.

The aid will be distributed via United Nations agencies.

It is the first humanitarian assistance by Seoul under the Moon Jae-in administration, which took office in May.

"We will proceed with [deciding] the actual timing and size of aid considering comprehensively the overall conditions including the inter-Korean relations".

Meanwhile, Karin Hulshof, regional director for East Asia and the Pacific at UNICEF released a statement on Thursday stressing the urgency of resolving the hunger issues and other "real challenges" North Korean children face daily.

South Korea's unification ministry agreed to provide the funds, which will go towards programmes for infants and pregnant women, days after the United Nations security council agreed a further round of sanctions in response to the regime's recent nuclear test. Seoul's approval of humanitarian aid to North Korea may have complicated the meeting even more.

Instead, the government had permitted civic groups to provide aid to the North and helped North Koreans indirectly via worldwide organizations.

"The children of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have always been invisible to much of the world, but the challenges they face are all too real - and the need to reach them is urgent", the statement read. "And they do not deserve to suffer for situations entirely beyond their control", she said, adding North Korean children "are no exception".

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