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(LEAD) S. Korea mulling over US$8 mln in aid to N.K. via int'l organs

2017/09/14 11:28

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(ATTN: REWRITES lead; ADDS more details, background throughout)

SEOUL, Sept. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Thursday that it is considering providing US$8 million in aid to North Korea via international organizations as it seeks to spur inter-Korean exchanges regardless of political considerations.

The government plans to hold a meeting on inter-Korean cooperation next Thursday to finalize whether to offer humanitarian assistance to those who are vulnerable in North Korea, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

Seoul suspended its aid to North Korea through U.N. agencies after the North's nuclear and missile tests in 2016.

If the government were to go ahead with the plan, the South would provide $4.5 million for a project to help infants and pregnant women by the World Food Program, and $3.5 million for the U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The two agencies have asked Seoul to resume its financial support.

"The government's basic stance is that humanitarian assistance to those who are vulnerable in North Korea should be continued regardless of political considerations," a ministry official said.

"Seoul plans to decide the details of the aid and its timing after taking into account the inter-Korean situation," he added.

If agreed, it would be the first humanitarian assistance by Seoul under the Moon Jae-in administration. It would also mark the resumption of aid via U.N. organizations after a hiatus of nearly two years.

President Moon said at the Group of 20 summit in July that assistance in the welfare and medical sectors should not be linked to political situations, citing the issue of malnutrition among North Korean infants.

In May, the South announced that it will permit civic groups to seek inter-Korean exchanges but only to the extent that doing so would not compromise the international sanctions regime.

However, North Korea has turned down such moves in protest at Seoul's support for U.N. sanctions against it.