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2009/12/31 10:58 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 87 (December 31, 2009)


Seoul to Donate $22 Million to N. Korea Through NGOs

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea has decided to donate 26 billion won (US$22.2 million) for humanitarian projects in North Korea via the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and private aid groups, the Unification Ministry said Dec. 28.

   "The government has decided to deliver 26 billion won from its inter-Korean cooperation fund to international and private organizations involved in supporting North Korea's underprivileged people," ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a press briefing.

   "The latest addition will increase our annual donation to the North's various support programs to 50 billion won this year," Chun said.

   The spokesman said about 15.2 billion won of the latest donation will be sent to the WHO for the global health agency's program for malnourished children in the North, while 4.7 billion won will be sent to UNICEF for a separate program also for children.

   Chun also said that some 6 billion won has been allocated for a range of other projects run by a number of private groups, including the provision of medicine, forestry projects and education for North Koreans in production-related areas.

   The ministry has provided support to UNICEF, the WHO and other international agencies with programs for North Korea since the mid-1990s, including $15.74 million provided in 2008.

   "The decision was made in consideration of humanitarian conditions and the pressing need to provide support for those in need in North Korea," Chun said.


Two Koreas Open Renewed Military Communication Lines

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The two Koreas opened cross-border military hotlines that have been retrofitted with optical cables, government officials said Dec. 30.

   "The military hotlines that connect cross-border management areas on the eastern and western coasts have undergone tests in the last few days and were opened today," an official at the Unification Ministry said.

   Seoul has provided the North with some 850 million won (US$714,000) worth of communications equipment to modernize the military communication lines used to issue permission for South Korean citizens traveling to and from the North. The construction for the update began Dec. 1.

   "The two Koreas will be able to exchange information between cross-border personnel swiftly and more stably," the official said.

   Lines across the western side of the border are mostly used for those commuting to the South Korean-run industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong, while lines on the eastern side are used for Hyundai Asan Corp. staff traveling to the Mt. Kumgang resort on the east coast. With the mountain tours now suspended, Hyundai keeps a small staff there to maintain the closed resort facilities.

   The renovations, agreed upon in 2007 after repeated malfunctions with the older lines made of copper, were put on hold after inter-Korean relations soured following the inauguration of Seoul's conservative administration last year.