South Korea to help North Korea with flooding

Kwang-Tae Kim and Kwang-Tae Kim

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea said yesterday it will provide $230 million worth of disaster relief to flood-ravaged North Korea, despite Seoul’s earlier decision to halt regular aid to Pyongyang after missile tests by the impoverished communist nation.

The aid – including 100,000 tons of rice, 80,000 blankets and emergency medical supplies – will be sent to the North starting late this month, said Vice Unification Minister Shin Eon-sang.

The goods are in addition to $20 million in donations that the Seoul government and South Korean civic groups have jointly pledged to the North.

State media in the North said last month’s heavy flooding killed “hundreds” but a South Korean aid group claimed the casualty toll is nearly 58,000 dead and missing. The North initially rejected South Korean aid from the Red Cross, but earlier this month asked for help.

South Korea suspended regular aid to the North in July after the country test-launched a series of missiles over international objections. Seoul decided to offer emergency aid after the floods, but said its suspension of regular aid was still in place.

“It is a separate case from annual aid to the North,” Shin said in a news briefing, calling the goods “emergency humanitarian aid.”

The North’s recent missile tests prompted the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning the North and barring U.N. member states from missile-related dealings with the Kim Jong Il regime.

Some 100,000 tons of cement, 100 eight-ton dump trucks and 50 excavators also are being provided by Seoul to North Korea. South Korea will conduct limited monitoring in the flood-stricken areas in North Korea after some of the aid is sent, Shin said.