11 N.K. Ships Expelled from South's Waters Since Passage Ban: Minister
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean vessels have been ordered to leave South Korean waters on 20 occasions since the South banned the passage of the North's commercial vessels in late May in retaliation for a deadly attack on a southern warship, Seoul's defense minister said on June 11.
The 20 expulsion orders involving 11 North Korean vessels were issued until Thursday after President Lee Myung-bak announced on May 24 a decision to suspend trade with North Korea and ban passage of North Korean ships into South Korean waters, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said in a parliamentary session.
The South Korean president announced the hard-line measures to punish the North for torpedoing the 1,200-ton warship, the Cheonan, on March 26 after a multinational investigation concluded last month that the North was behind the attack that killed 46 sailors.
"Since the decision to block the passage of North Korean ships, we expelled 11 North Korean ships from our waters 20 times," Kim was quoted by Rep. Hwang Jin-ha of the ruling Grand National Party as saying.
Kim told lawmakers that there was "no major trouble" in turning away the North Korean ships.
Also, Kim said the military set up a total of 11 loudspeakers along the heavily armed border to blare anti-North broadcasts, but reiterated that no decision has been made on when to use them.
"Given the complex situation, we are reviewing the timing of starting anti-North broadcasts using the loudspeakers," Kim was quoted as saying by Hwang.
North Korea, which denies its involvement in the sinking, has threatened to shoot at the loudspeakers if the South starts using them for propaganda broadcasts.
Last week, South Korea officially asked the U.N. Security Council to take action against North Korea for the attack.
During the parliamentary session, Vice Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo said non-official discussions are underway to try to adopt a resolution at the Security Council.
Despite heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, an inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong keeps operating. The South also excluded the Kaesong industrial park from its list of reprisals.
Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-sik said about 550 South Korean personnel are now in Kaesong.
"While North Korea is said to be considering blocking cross-border passage, no specific measure has been taken," Um told lawmakers.
S. Korea Approves Additional Shipments of Humanitarian Aid to N. Korea
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea has approved four shipments of humanitarian assistance to North Korea, a government official said on June 15, upholding its policy of supporting those in need of such aid despite the sinking of a warship blamed on Pyongyang.
The aid, worth slightly over 300 million won (US$245,000), comes after South Korea approved two shipments of infant food to North Korea on June 8. North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world, and its children suffer from chronic malnutrition.
"The latest shipments will be delivered to a nursery, a tuberculosis clinic, a maternity hospital and a kindergarten" in four different North Korean areas, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters.
South Korea has banned aid to and trade with North Korea since late last month when it blamed Pyongyang for the March sinking of its warship, the Cheonan, near the Yellow Sea border. Forty-six seamen died in the sinking that the North denies any involvement in.
Despite the ban, South Korea has said civilian aid for infants and others in need of humanitarian assistance will continue.
Inter-Korean exchanges flourished after a summit between the leaders of both sides in 2000. They slowed considerably, however, when a conservative government took office here in 2008 with a vow to get tougher on the North's provocative behavior and nuclear ambitions.
The sinking of the South Korean corvette brought the relations to a screeching halt. Tension also runs high along the heavily armed border between the two countries.