S. Korea halts civilian exchanges with N. Korea
SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government has prohibited all civilian exchange programs with North Korea since its nuclear test last month, a Unification Ministry official said Wednesday.
The government has rejected a total of 17 private-level applications for inter-Korean contact, including cross-border trips and shipping materials to the communist country, the official said.
North Korea conducted what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6, prompting the international community to push for additional sanctions. The North is banned from nuclear and ballistic missile activity under United Nations Security Council resolutions.
A month later, the North conducted a long-range rocket launch, which the outside world denounced as a defiant ballistic missile test.
"It is not the right time to discuss dialogue and cooperation as North Korea's nuclear test and long-range missile launch fomented a serious situation," the official noted.
Right after the nuclear test last month, the Unification Ministry retaliated by freezing private-level inter-Korean exchanges and humanitarian assistance programs.
Government-level exchanges between the countries were suspended in punitive measures South Korea took in May 2010, two months after North Korea torpedoed the Cheonan, a South Korean Navy corvette.